Fear and economic focus confuse 
Colorado National Monument debate

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Count me as one of those wrapped in an unholy alliance. I’m not so much an opponent of park status as an opponent of bunkum, and the park has largely been sold on that basis.

It is possible for there to be little positive economic impact while still leaving negative impact on the resource. The issue isn’t simply volume of visitors—it’s the amount and quality of visitation, when and where.

The Grand Junction economy is large and is going to grow regardless, so even the most optimistic estimates of increased visitorship won’t have much economic impact. The dollars spent by tourists will be concentrated in a few sectors, where jobs are mostly low-paid. Any real impact comes from spending more than a day in town, yet we have what’s realistically a drive-through park. Unless the entire valley is marketed successfully, we won’t capture many of those dollars.

So what about negative impact? Visitation is seasonal. A 10% increase annually is more like a 20-30% increase in volume during a few key months. There’s essentially one road with two entrances and with limited width and parking capacity, as well as only a few places for the less adventurous to tramp around.

I’m skeptical about the tour bus prospects being touted, but suppose those increase. A tour bus has a disproportionate impact on others’ experience, views, parking, traffic flow, etc. compared to a similar number of visitors spread out over time.

Call me fearful or illogical, but I see potential for the experience to be degraded without much payback. When I have to choose between trusting Pollyanna or Cassandra, my inclination is to leave things as they are.



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