Red rocks, rock-hard attitudes and the end of the world
I suppose the end of the world could come Saturday.
No, not the apocalypse you’ve seen on billboards around the Grand Valley, which former pastor and Grand Junction resident Timothy King wrote about on these pages Sunday. King described all the various missed dates over the years for the much-predicted second coming, when life as we know it would end and we’d all be summoned for our last judgment. Some of these failed predictions led to what became known as “the Great Disappointment.”
Personally, I’m making plans for Sunday, May 22. That doesn’t mean I won’t be disappointed.
May 21, you see, is also the date of the formal celebration of the founding the Colorado National Monument, (the executive order designating the monument was signed on May 24, 1911.) It will be a day of festivities honoring the foresight of John Otto and early Grand Junction civic leaders, who led the effort to establish what is perennially, according to Visitor and Convention Bureau surveys, one of our valley’s top three visitor attractions. It’ll be a “free day” up in the red rock canyons.
One sure sign that the apocalypse is upon us might be a change of cranky attitudes about the possibility the monument might be designated a national park. That would include attitudes down at the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Club 20, the city of Fruita, bike-race aficionados, even here in the pages of The Daily Sentinel.
Few will be surprised if the chamber and Club 20, despite assurances that management practices and air quality regulations won’t change if the signs say “park” instead of “monument,” manufacture some reason to oppose the switch. That’ll be too bad, especially since chamber leaders were among those most happy back in 1911, when President William Howard Taft used the much-maligned Antiquities Act to establish the Colorado National Monument.
There are also those who argue that, since nothing will change but the name, there’s no need to change the historical designation for purely marketing reasons. I presume those folks don’t include people at a certain local college that soon will go by the acronym CMU and perhaps adopt a motto appropriate to the stated reason for that change: “Come to My University.”
It’s painfully obvious that, over the years, monument superintendents didn’t major in political science in their undergraduate years. The recent dustup over the proposed bike race over the monument is only the most recent example of an exceedingly narrow focus regarding the place of the monument in the local scheme of things.
It took a court ruling to settle years of disputes over road access for Glade Park residents, some of whose forefathers helped finance the original road up the east side. Some of us remember the 1980s battle over the historic route cattlemen used to trail their herds up and down on the Fruita side. Fruita has been concerned about the city’s old water line through the monument.
Past disputes got handled and life went on. The absolute wrong thing would be for the most recent (and unfortunate) short-term decision to abort a golden opportunity to enhance the status of the Colorado National Monument as it celebrates its centennial.
Just a few weeks ago, Jack Conolly, president of the Colorado National Monument Association, presented Colorado National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo with an interesting historical artifact found among the effects of his late father-in-law, longtime former chamber Director Dale Hollingsworth. The program from the 50 anniversary celebration of the monument’s creation featured a proud co-sponsor of the event: the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.
Wouldn’t it be something if, 100 years after the chamber helped lead the effort to establish the Colorado National Monument and 50 years after co-sponsoring the celebration of the first half-century of the monument’s existence, the organization, along with Club 20 and other local recalcitrants, could be seen promoting a change to a national park rather than dragging their collective feet?