California monument-to-park bill noticed in valley

While Mesa County has been mired in disagreement about whether to seek an upgrade of Colorado National Monument to a national park, a similar proposal in California is making headway.

The U.S. House on Tuesday in a voice vote passed the Pinnacles National Park Act, H.R. 3641, prompting supporters of a similar designation change for Colorado National Monument to draw comparisons.

At 26,000 acres, Pinnacles National Monument is slightly larger than Colorado National Monument, which covers a bit more than 20,000 acres.

Pinnacles National Monument “has spires in it and has a lot of unique things” said Ken Henry, a co-chairman of a committee studying whether to upgrade Colorado National Monument, which he noted also happens to be well known for spires and unusual rock formations.

Pinnacles National Monument played a role in the recovery of the California condor, Henry said, noting that Colorado National Monument also was a vital part of the effort to save peregrine falcons.

Promoting Pinnacles National Monument to a national park was a bipartisan effort carried by Rep. Sam Farr, a Democrat, and co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican, Henry noted. The study committee on which he served was formed at the behest of Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican whose 3rd Congressional District includes Colorado National Monument.

For Tipton, who supported the Pinnacles monument-to-park bill, the California and Colorado questions are individual cases, said his Washington, D.C. spokesman, Josh Green.

The Pinnacles bill was driven by local interest in promoting tourism to the area, Green said. Federal legislators from Colorado also are looking for a signal from the Grand Valley before moving forward, he said.

Committee members have told Tipton and Udall that the Grand Valley is split, with about 40 percent for a national park, 40 percent against and 20 percent undecided or uninterested.

Fruita Mayor Lori Buck said she sees no groundswell either way.

“I can see the benefits of the national park and hopefully generating more tourism,” Buck said, noting that the benefits of greater visitation could come at a cost.

Fruita owns land on Pinon Mesa above the monument and traffic congestion from increased visitation could make it difficult to realize the long-held city goal of improving recreational opportunities around the Fruita reservoirs and Enoch Lake, Buck said.

The previous council supported a national park, but the current council hasn’t discussed whether to take a position, Buck said.


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