Tourism folks ‘abuzz’ about park proposal
The prospect of changing Colorado National Monument to Rim Rock Canyons National Park got a boost of support from the tourism industry, a cautious vote of approval from the energy industry and a warning from a former congressman.
“The hospitality community is abuzz” about the prospect of redesignating the monument, said Barb Bowman, manager of the Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Redesignating the monument “could turn this economy around” by generating more interest in the Grand Valley, Bowman said.
Former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, whose district included the monument and who now is running for the Mesa County Commission, said “It could be a big mistake to focus on the positive elements and imagine away the negative ones.”
A higher profile as a park would embolden environmental, conservation and friends associations to use Rim Rock Canyons National Park as a way to stymie development elsewhere, such as drilling for natural gas on the Roan Plateau or a coal mine on the opposite side of the Grand Valley, McInnis said.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., are now gathering comments on the proposed legislation drafted by a five-member committee they appointed last year.
The legislation would preserve the existing borders of the monument and make permanent access to Glade Park. It also includes a provision that would prevent the park from being used to halt activities outside its boundaries and another preserving the existing air-quality status of the monument.
“Now that those facts are spelled out in a community-written draft bill, it immediately dispels the misinformation and fear mongering some put out there, and we expect thousands more will sign on to make John Otto’s dream of a national park a reality,” said Terri Chappell of Grand Valley Citizens for Park Status. “Anyone with questions can look at the bill and see the excellent job the committee did to address local concerns.”
Backers of park status had agreed to include protections for the energy industry.
“It’s good to see the verbal commitments codified” in the proposed measure, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, who said the measure reflects community comments and fulfilled the process that had been promised.
Several organizations have yet to consider the draft measure, including Mesa County, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the Grand Junction Economic Partnership.
Comment on the proposed legislation can be made with the offices of Tipton and Udall. Both have web pages on which comments can be offered.