No clear view of monument status, survey shows

The committee studying whether to pursue park status for Colorado National Monument will meet four times with the public in April in open houses designed to share information and collect comments.

The committee at some point is expected to make a recommendation to federal lawmakers about whether to seek a change in status for the 20,000-acre National Park Service venue overlooking the Grand Valley.

Much remains unclear in the minds of many of the 603 people who responded to an online survey that began Jan. 30, committee members said.

“There’s a lot of rumor and innuendo out there,” said Ken Henry, committee co-chairman and the mayor of Fruita.

Some responses suggested some people might not realize the monument already is owned and managed by the federal government, committee members noted, pointing to a response that said, “Gov’t control in any form would be disturbing.”

If the monument is made a national park, it would be managed by the National Park Service, and the rules governing its management wouldn’t change.

There also is sharp disagreement among respondents about the best status for the monument, split roughly down the middle, with a small number of respondents seeking a change of name instead of a change in status.

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, a committee member, said he expected overwhelming support for a national park.

“If you view this as a kind of marching order” to the committee, “we’d have to march in two or three different directions,” Acquafresca said.

The largest group of respondents, 46 percent, cited the potential for increased tourist visitation and accompanying economic activity as the most exciting possibility of a national park.

The greatest concern cited by respondents, 38 percent, was the possibility of restrictions on traffic that could accompany park status.

Committee members emphasized they haven’t reached any conclusions about a final recommendation, but they acknowledge they might issue majority and minority reports.

The committee members were appointed by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Colorado Democrats, after Udall raised the issue during the 2008 election campaign.

Some committee findings will be displayed on panels during the open houses, and committee members will be present. Participants will be able to write comments to be considered by the committee.

Open houses are tentatively scheduled for April 10 on the Redlands, April 12 in Fruita, April 17 in Grand Junction and April 19 on Glade Park. All are expected to run from 4 to 7 p.m., and locations remain to be announced.


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