Business groups throw support to park

Two business organizations came out in favor of a promotion of Colorado National Monument to a national park — with several conditions.

Boards of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Grand Junction Economic Development Partnership both voted this week to support the change with caveats that local concerns be acknowledged in legislation.

The chamber, which has until now been ambivalent on the issue after a long history of support for changing the century-old monument to a national park, went along when GJEP offered a resolution that underscored those local concerns, said chamber President Diane Schwenke.

The resolution “did resonate with the (chamber) board,” Schwenke said, noting that it addressed water-rights issues and fears that park status might be used as a club to prevent economic growth in the Grand Valley and called for a community oversight commission with the power to overturn National Park Service decisions.

The chamber tipped to support the measure because it addressed the issues both organizations wanted to take on in any possible legislation, chamber Chairman Michael Burke said.

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., told a packed town hall meeting in 2009 at Colorado Mesa University that he was sensitive to local concerns, enough so that he would allow residents to draft the bill.

“And we definitely want to hold him to it,” Schwenke said.

The resolution addresses other local hot-button issues, such as insisting that Glade Park residents have unimpeded access to the area from the east entrance and that the park have the exact boundaries as the monument, which was designated on May 24, 1911.

A national park overlooking the metropolitan area from Fruita to Grand Junction would prove to be an economic boon, said Kelly Flenniken, GJEP executive director.

“I think people understand the inherent value of having a national park in your back yard,” Flenniken said.

The resolution offers “a little more security that the rules and regulations will not immediately change as a result of redesignation,” Flenniken said.

Specifically, the two organizations are asking that the current air-quality standards for a park be the same as they are for the monument and that the park cannot become a Class I air quality area under the Clean Air Act.

Another condition is that consultations by the National Park Service under the National Environmental Policy Act “shall not impede business or other economic development in the surrounding area.”

The joint resolution also calls for legislation to include a community oversight commission that could, under applicable law, “review, and, if necessary, reverse decisions on applications for special-use permits made by the National Park Service.”

The final provision says that if any of the conditions are removed or materially amended, “this endorsement is withdrawn.”



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“I think people understand the inherent value of having a national park in your back yard,” Flenniken said.

Yes, they do, but the assumptions about “economic boon” deserve a critical look, as does the Chamber’s demand that business should be able to do whatever it wants.

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