Task force questions park status

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce has set up a task force to consider the implications of changing Colorado National Monument to Colorado Canyons National Park.

That doesn’t mean the chamber is opposed to the idea, said David Ludlam, who is heading the task force.

“I wouldn’t say there are major concerns, or even active concerns” about the change, Ludlam said.

Nonetheless, the chamber wants to know more about the change, which is being pitched by supporters as a boost to the Grand Valley’s tourism economy.

Backers of the idea have said the change amounts to one in name only, and to a name more likely to attract tourists who love visiting national parks.

One aspect that makes Colorado National Monument unusual among lands managed by the National Park Service is its proximity to the population centers of Fruita and Grand Junction.

“We want to know about the implications of having a Class 1 airshed within a stone’s throw of the Grand Valley business community,” Ludlam said.

A Class 1 airshed is the highest designation under federal standards, essentially equating to pure air, according to the Wilderness Workshop.

Colorado National Monument enjoys the same protections as a national park already, monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said.

Still, Ludlam said, the task force wants to know what the implications of a Class 1 air- shed are for people who use wood stoves in the valley, other forms of residential heating or light industry with small amounts of emissions.

He also wonders if there will be implications such as vehicle-emissions testing for Grand Valley motorists.

“What I’d like to do is come up with a list of questions that could be of interest,” Ludlam said.

A consultant might be able to help draft a white paper with regulatory overlays that could be considered by the business community, Ludlam said.

“The view that nothing will change seems like a bit of a simplistic view, I think,” chamber President Diane Schwenke said.

Other members of the task force include Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, Grand Junction City Councilman Sam Susuras and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.

Ludlam is the executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Other issues include access rights in perpetuity for the residents of Glade Park and the ability of the park to conduct the same events, such as bicycle races, as the monument does now, Schwenke said.

Monument officials have offered comments about land-use issues along its borders, but only in the sense of providing information, such as whether particular drainages have proven susceptible to flash flooding, Anzelmo said.

“We don’t get into the business of build or don’t build,” Anzelmo said. “We provide scientific facts.”

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and U.S. Rep. John Salazar, both Colorado Democrats, have said they support the idea of converting the monument to a park.

Rep.-elect Scott Tipton, who defeated Salazar in the general election, said he is considering the proposal.

Tipton owns a pottery shop in Cortez, near Mesa Verde National Park.


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