Salazar: Keep request simple 
to Congress for park status

The case for upgrading the designation of Colorado National Monument to a national park could be enhanced if the change wouldn’t increase costs and would leave the boundaries intact, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

A national park overlooking the Grand Valley could bring “huge economic benefits” to Mesa County, Salazar said soon after U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he would raise the issue again after the election.

A pitch for park status based on economic benefit is fortuitous, said Ken Henry, a former Fruita mayor and a co-chairman of a committee studying park status.

“In fact, we’re approaching 20, 21 business right now to get behind it,” Henry said on Friday. “We need to get responses from people who benefit from park status and have them speak up and support it.”

Salazar, Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., spoke at a rally for Mesa County Democrats on Thursday.

“I think it should be very much explored,” Salazar said of changing the status of the monument. He can take no action toward park status as Interior secretary because such a decision is up to Congress, which would be more receptive to a bare-bones proposal, Salazar said. The potential economic benefits of park status are too great to be ignored, Udall said.

Once the election is over, Udall said he hopes to reignite discussions much as he did two years ago, when he conducted a February town hall meeting at Colorado Mesa University to gauge interest in changing the monument’s designation.

Supporters of the change dominated that discussion, but a committee that was appointed to study the issue was unable to bridge a split in the valley that found about 40 percent favoring a change, 40 percent opposing it and 20 percent unconvinced either way.

He hopes to stress the business advantages of a national park, Udall said, noting that the biggest economic driver in Durango “isn’t the (Durango & Silverton) railroad and it’s not biking. It’s Mesa Verde National Park.”


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