No community consensus on monument status

Grand Valley residents are knotted in disagreement about whether to seek national park status for Colorado National Monument, a study committee concluded.

Committee members next month will tell U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., about their findings after a year of study, an online survey and four open-house sessions they hosted this month.

People who commented to the committee were “like this,” member Owen O’Fallon said, holding up one fist and then the other, suggesting that the roughly equal sides showed no signs of budging.

“There is not a consensus in the community,” Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said, so it could be time to seek a middle ground, a name change without necessarily a status change.

“The word ‘monument’ is a real drag on this fabulous property,” Acquafresca said, suggesting the committee might want to take a different approach. “The word ‘monument’ is not befitting this landscape.”

Dubbing the 20,000-acre area “Colorado National Canyons” without seeking an actual change in the designation might work to meet the marketing problem associated with the name Colorado National Monument, Acquafresca said.

Committee members have been told that international tour companies look for national parks and pay no attention to monuments.

Opponents have cited fears of traffic problems and crowding in questioning park status, but Grand Junction Mayor Tom Kenyon said there are management techniques that can preserve the things people like about the monument, especially Grand Valley residents who like things as they are.

A change “doesn’t mean you have to live with a diminished experience,” he said.

Kenyon is a former state parks manager.

The board of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, historically a backer of park status, is ambivalent, as is the community, chamber President Diane Schwenke said.

Board members couldn’t find “a compelling reason” to support park status, Schwenke said.

Pressing for park status “could be a divisive kind of thing,” Schwenke said.

Ultimately, the congressional delegation has to decide whether to seek legislation, and committee members will make their individual cases to the delegation next month, possibly by videoconference or in person.


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