Email letters, May 17, 2013

Michelle Wheatley deserves hearty congratulations

Michelle Wheatley has just wrapped up eight years of distinguished public service at Colorado National Monument and begins her new position as superintendent of Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument on Monday. Lucky are those fossils!

Michelle could run Yellowstone National Park or any national park, so talented is she. She distinguished herself when she capably managed Colorado National Monument for nine months as acting superintendent to high acclaim from staff and the community. Michelle recently completed a four-month stint as acting superintendent at Grand Kohrs National Historic Site in Montana, where the staff and the community hoped she would stay.

This is a recurring theme wherever Michelle works; people don’t want her to leave. That is especially true at Colorado National Monument and throughout the Grand Valley.

During my tenure as superintendent at the monument, Michelle was my right arm, serving as deputy superintendent and visitor services chief. Together, we initiated a variety of park infrastructure improvement projects, expanded community outreach and provided new services for visitors.

Under Michelle’s leadership the monument’s first division of interpretation, education and visitor services was established and serves more than 450,000 visitors and 10,000 students annually.

Anywhere you venture in Colorado National Monument, Michelle’s contributions are evident: a vibrant educational program and junior ranger explorer’s day camp; the beautifully refurbished visitor center lobby and stunning new exhibits; new waysides along Historic Rim Rock Drive; and new web-based outreach and interpretive programs that use the latest technologies.

Michelle served as the monument’s liaison to a multitude of partner organizations and agencies. She re-established respectful relationships with the Ute Tribes, who, thanks entirely to Michelle, now feel welcome at the monument.

Michelle represented the monument at yearlong community discussions evaluating the benefits of the monument being legislated as a national park. Michelle dispelled recurring misinformation about potential limitations national park status would bring. Michelle reminded the community there would be no change in air quality requirements, no change in access for Glade Park and no change to existing water rights. The national park designation would best recognize the nationally significant resources and compelling history of Colorado National Monument.     

Michelle works tirelessly to carry out the National Park Service mission — protect park resources and serve park visitors. She embodies the highest standards of public service. Michelle is no bureaucrat but a dedicated public servant of the highest order. 

Congratulations, Michelle, and Godspeed on your journey to Florissant!

Former Superintendent, Colorado National Monument
Grand Junction

Bill Grant should listen to alternative voices on travel plan

Bill Grant’s recent column accusing the Mesa County commissioners of only having ears for OHV access shows a lack of journalistic research prior to publishing a column. The column also seeks to inflame different user groups and create animosity between user groups regarding public land use.

In reality, the Mesa County commissioners are concerned about making good comments to the BLM regarding county roads that are located within the boundaries of the BLM. These are roads in which the county has a vested interest and ownership of unless they are willing to give up ownership to the federal government. These roads are ASSETS of the county and as assets are of significant value.

The county commissioners are concerned about these assets not solely for OHV access but rather for access for all. All of us use motorized means for getting to a special area on the BLM or for exploring our public lands. The county commissioners are not interested in one user group over another but rather protecting assets that we can all enjoy and use. Keep in mind that the federal government has already placed motorized restrictions on one-half of all public lands.

My suggestion to all user groups is to get behind the county commissioners on this issue of county roads on public lands. I know some think they are doing good by closing access to public lands. I think it is more about educating people to be responsible when using our national treasures. We do this by encouraging stewardship and showing people the treasures that we have, not by restricting use.


Bold headlines tell of political preference

The Daily Sentinel is the only major newspaper on the Western Slope, so it is very important that news articles published are impartial enough to give its readers two sides of an issue. It “ain’t necessarily so,” as the old saying goes.

It’s no secret The Daily Sentinel is a conservative publication and favors the Republican Party. I will admit some favorable articles about the Democrats, aka liberals, aka President Obama, do get published, but the majority of the time articles are placed in the back of the paper, sandwiched between advertisements with very small headlines. This is the way The Daily Sentinel keeps positive news coming from the White House very hard to find by readers. For an example, see the article headlined “Health centers get $150 million to help uninsured,” which was on the bottom of page 6A Friday, May 10.

On the other hand, any news by the GOP that criticizes the Obama administration has large bold headlines and are placed in the front section of the newspaper, guaranteeing thy will be seen. See the front page on Thursday, May 16 and three articles on page 5A directly across from the editorial section. This is not impartial news reporting: it’s sneaky reporting.

It’s a good thing readers today have access to other news media for the “big picture.” If The Daily Sentinel were their only news source, they would be stuck with only one view, the conservative way of thinking, and that’s not impartial.


Williams’ slap on the wrist was mind-boggling

It is simply mind-boggling that state and regulatory agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, mandated to protect the public’s health and natural resources, concluded not to fine Williams over its massive leak of toxic chemicals in the Parachute Creek area, one of the worst contamination cases from gas and oil operations in our state history. According to the Denver Post (March 28) benzene levels reached 18,000 ppb in nearby test wells, the state health standard is 5 ppb.

This is clearly a matter of negligence and lack of proper oversight by the company, but a slap on the wrist is all they get from these industry-biased agencies. Once more the general public, particularly those living in nearby areas, will suffer the long-term health and economic consequences associated with this form of contamination.

Cases such as these can only perpetuate the growing public distrust on CDPHE, COGCC and the gas and oil industries. I’ll cite Bob Arrington, as quoted in the Sentinel: “What does it take to wake them (Williams) up?”
He added that it may take a big fine.



BLM should work to keep more lands wild

As a climber, hiker and generally “motivated for exploration’” kind of person, I have a good deal of experience with the different levels of BLM management.

I have climbed near oil and gas development, been shot at by hunters and enjoyed complete solitude while exploring canyons within the Grand Junction Field Office. There are many places in the field office that I would love to see stay wild.

As much as I appreciate the value of ATV’s, guns, driving my car (using oil), heating my home (natural gas), I think we have designated enough public land for development. I would love for future generations of people to experience this area in the same state it is in today. BLM should protect more lands, keeping their wild integrity intact, in its final draft.

Grand Junction
Consider contributing to renovation of Avalon Theatre

Have you ever wondered why Broadway musicals, dramas, and other touring groups bypass Grand Junction? Grand Junction would be a logical stopover between Salt Lake City and Denver, but professional road tours will not stop at a theatre holding fewer than 1,000 people.

The Avalon Theatre does not have 1,000 seats, but that is not the only problem. What company will stage a production where there is no room backstage for actors to wait, so they stand in the alley outside – snow, wind or rain? Who wants to stage a production where an actor exits to the right (or left) of the stage and in order to enter at the opposite side must go outside and around the building? Who wants to stage a production where there are no dressing rooms?

There are audience problems with the Avalon, too. The seats are sagging and uncomfortable, the steps in the balcony are not well lit, the projection room has outdated equipment, the tiny foyer makes one feels like a squashed fly and the theatre is not up to city code.

What happens next? The Avalon Theatre could close down permanently in June, or, YOU CAN SAVE IT! Almost enough money has been raised to begin construction on the first two crucial phases. Costs have risen since the initial planning, and dedicated people are trying desperately to pare the costs before the first week in June when the City Council makes its final decision on whether to issue a construction contract.

Your contribution, large or small, may make the difference in having, or not having, a resurrected theatre of which the community can be proud, one that will provide an economic and cultural boost to the valley. Check for more information. Please consider a donation.

Grand Junction
Jared Wright gives us his first-term ‘report card’

A long wait, but finally, our new House representative has returned and reported his successes at the capital of Colorado. And what a stunning report card it was! I thought for a minute I was reading an eighth-grader’s update on his or her behavior following a good “scolding,”

From the Sentinel article:  “People during my campaign had concerns I had no work ethic, that I wasn’t going to show up for work, that I had no financial acumen, that I wasn’t going to vote properly on issues that deal with people’s money,” Wright said. “I think I’ve proven to them that when it comes to dealing with taxpayers’ dollars, I’m very fiscally prudent ... and I missed one day because I wasn’t able to get over the mountains because of snow. I’ve shown up on time and did the people’s work.”

WOW. Son, I am really proud of you. I know how hard you tried (a little blind eternal optimism is always good for responsible adult character building)! Now, to further our value (he only got a special license plate approved, a critical project in 2013), this representative, as he did with his pre-election financial challenges of blaming “the Obama economy.” has blamed our supposed VP-seeking governor of obstructing his agenda and has vowed to spend his next session trying to undo legislation already approved. Way to go and great value for the taxpayers.

Repeal the gun laws because, according to Wright and King, “nobody will want to hunt in Colorado.” Guess they haven’t seen current data regarding hunting licenses issued in Colorado. How about Wright trying something new and invigorating that possibly may help this sagging West Slope economy?

FYI, we own a home in Jefferson County; while my 2013 assessed value here in stagnant Mesa County continued to decrease by 7 percent, Jefferson County increased 14.8 percent. Makes you wonder why. 

Grand Junction




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