Monument upgrade to park concerns McInnis

Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis speaks Monday at a meeting of Mesa County Republican Women, where he expressed reservations about Colorado National Monument being upgraded to a national park, including the effect on the Grand Valley if stricter federal regulations were a result.

Former Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis is concerned making Colorado National Monument a national park would mean a boost in headaches, not tourists.

McInnis spoke on the issue at a Mesa County Republican Women’s luncheon Monday at Two Rivers Convention Center. Although McInnis said he is not firmly opposed to the monument receiving a park designation, he did offer plenty of reasons why he thought it was a bad idea.

Among his concerns are how the monument would handle extra traffic, parking and increased bus tours if the area became a park.

“The next time you drive by Cold Shivers Point, ask yourself how many buses can fit in there?” he said.

That concern may be moot to McInnis, because he doesn’t believe there will be many more visitors with a park designation. McInnis wrote the legislation that made Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes national parks in 1999 and 2000, respectively. But he said tourism has not increased for either park since they received their designations.

Great Sand Dunes National Park had 3,461 fewer visitors in 2010 than in 1999 and Black Canyon of the Gunnison had 17,107 fewer visitors last year than it had in 1998.

Supporters of the designation change, including the Grand Junction Visitor & Convention Bureau, believe the monument would attract more visitors. More than 40 tour groups at a recent international travel show told convention bureau employees they would be more inclined to take visitors to the monument if it became a park.

McInnis said he’s also concerned changing to a park would mean regulations are enforced differently and possibly more strictly in the monument. That could mean stricter air or light pollution guidelines or moving park boundaries out to encompass a wider area and encroaching on recreational activities, he said.

“We are going to have to constantly fight for our right to multiple uses,” McInnis said.

Colorado National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said the same rules that regulate the monument control national parks.

“The same things allowed in a monument are allowed in a park,” Anzelmo said. “We have tried to explain that to (McInnis) over and over,” Anzelmo said.

Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, hosted a listening session in February on the topic but has not taken any more action to get the designation approved, according to his communications director, Tara Trujillo.


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