National park backers pull out all stops
Supporters of upgrading Colorado National Monument to a national park are marshaling modern techniques to win public support they hope will drive federal legislation.
“These are the steps you take in a representative democracy,” Jamie Lummis said of the effort, which is gathering speed since Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told business interests and others a week ago that it was up to them to demonstrate public support for a change in designation.
To accomplish that, supporters are turning to the tried-and-true techniques of persuading public officials to pass resolutions of support and approaching service clubs for presentations. They’re also looking at the possibility of a petition.
But backers also are looking to social media to inform the public about the issue and turn clicks into visible support.
Udall told supporters that he and Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., will decide by midsummer whether to pursue legislation.
Tipton’s 3rd Congressional District includes the monument. Tipton and Udall set up a study committee in 2011 to consider issues related to an upgrade in the monument’s status, but the committee disbanded last year without reaching a conclusion.
Backers of park status are preparing the next step, Lummis said, noting that they are preparing a Facebook page, as well as making use of other social media to answer questions about the effects of an upgrade to national park status.
Tillie Bishop, a former state senator and Mesa County commissioner, said he hoped the effort would tap into support for a change that hasn’t shown itself.
“There’s a real enthusiasm and feeling out there that the time has come to make a decision,” Bishop said.
Much of the debate has been confusing, Bishop said, “so people treat it like it’s a major decision when it ought to be a no-brainer. Hell, nothing changes but the name.”
Udall told supporters that legislation could be drafted to accommodate concerns about air-quality requirements, uses of the park for events such as bicycle races and tours, and other local concerns.
Lummis, who used Colorado National Monument 100 times last year for activities including biking, hiking and camping, said concerns about overcrowding at the monument won’t necessarily come to pass.
Even a sharp increase in tour coach visits would likely peak during the hottest times of the warmest times of the year — times in which local residents tend not to visit the area, Lummis said.
“I think there’s so much carrying capacity” at the monument, Lummis said.
“There’s so much that goes unused.”