Advocates get signatures to change monument to park

A visitor to Colorado National Monument stops at Independence Monument overlook to make a photograph Friday afternoon.The monument high country is 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley and is 32 square miles large.With the help of John Otto the monument was made a national monument in 1911.Otto was named the park’s caretaker, a job he held until 1927 with a salary of $1 a month.



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A visitor to Colorado National Monument stops at Independence Monument overlook to make a photograph Friday afternoon.The monument high country is 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley and is 32 square miles large.With the help of John Otto the monument was made a national monument in 1911.Otto was named the park’s caretaker, a job he held until 1927 with a salary of $1 a month.

Elevating Colorado National Monument to a national park could reverse the economic slide of the Grand Valley, the chairman of the Junior College Baseball World Series said.

“With what I consider the slow death of western Colorado, it’s time to shake things up,” said Jamie Hamilton, who also chairs Home Loan State Bank. “We have to do something to shake up this economy. It’s something to drive additional tourism. It just makes sense.”

Backers of the upgrade of Colorado National Monument to a national park need to pipe up, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said.

He and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., are waiting to hear back from a committee drafted to write a bill promoting Colorado National Monument to a national park.

“Grand Junction, Fruita, Mesa County, we’ve got to see public support for it,” Tipton said Friday.

Tipton’s and Udall’s staffs have had several talks about the monument, but they have yet to see the bill drafted by the committee.

“We’ve heard they are making progress and we’re hoping to see the fruits of their work,” Udall spokesman Mike Saccone said.

An online petition, meanwhile, has topped 500 signatures in favor of a national park and signatures are being collected at several locations in downtown Grand Junction, and elsewhere.

Signatures of the online petition range from as far away as Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in a recent addition to signers representing several states, from California to Illinois.

The petition is at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/make-the-colorado-national-monument-the-nation-s-60th-n.html.

Udall made a promotion of the monument one of his first priorities in 2010, when he called for national park status for the monument in his first visit to Grand Junction as a newly elected senator.

As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on national parks, Udall is in a position to press a bill forward.

Udall and Tipton last year appointed a five-member committee to draft a measure that would give the 20,000-acre monument national park status and they had hoped to have legislation prepared by January.



COMMENTS

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People outside of Colorado have no say with regards to lands owned by Colorado. Secondly we will be at the mercy of the Federal Govt. to subsidize the tax revenue base which we almost saw the loss of on BLM lands under the Farm Bill. Thirdly, the federal agencies have continually shown the lack of stewardship for federal lands and restricted access to many of these publicly owned areas.

Last July, I wrote at length on the subject of the supposed economic benefits of national park status for the monument. The article can be found at High Country News and The Denver Post, so I won’t resubmit the research here. But since the same old economic argument is being trotted out, I feel I should at least repeat this…

There’s scant evidence of any meaningful economic benefit from redesignating national monuments.

Bankers and economic development people should know that this move will not shake things up. A city this size needs more than a new sign on an old attraction to make a difference. We have a growing university, a burgeoning health care center and world class destination mountain-biking (which is different that pass through tourism).

If we can preserve open space, keep our air and water clean, and build cultural assets that attract professional residents, retirees and clean industry, we have a far better shot at sustainable growth and prosperity.

That, however, takes local investment and commitment. It’s easier to play politics and tell the Feds to change the signs.

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