Hoping for a sign of change in Colorado National Monument
A couple years ago, I was asked to serve on the board of the Colorado National Monument Association. I agreed. Unfortunately I didn’t do my homework first. That was my mistake and I regret it. Board members for any organization should be in substantial agreement with the broad goals and underlying philosophy of management.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t share the same values as the National Park Service. I understand the monument is a federal facility and it has many constituencies. But I always felt that very high on the monument’s list of priorities should be maintaining a good relationship with the community.
That wasn’t the case. That was driven home to me in many instances. When the monument denied the request for a professional bike race on Rimrock Drive, I decided to resign. That wasn’t the first time I realized that the Park Service and I had differing views about the role the monument plays in the community. It was simply the proverbial straw that did harm to the camel.
The first came shortly after I went on the board and a friend approached me with a request. He uses Serpents Trail a lot for exercise, as do hundreds of other people. Would it be possible, he asked, to put mileage markers on the trail. It seemed like a reasonable enough request to me. It certainly wouldn’t cost much money. It wouldn’t be a lot of work. It would be unobtrusive. A lot of people would appreciate it and find it useful information.
Was I ever wrong.
Serpents Trail, I was told, is a historic trail, and as such, there would be no signage whatsoever. Signs would do nothing but degrade the trail and detract from its historical nature. This went on for a few minutes. I learned a great deal about the value of historical trails and the harm signs could do to those values. The conversation concluded when I was told I could tell my friend and anyone else who wanted mileage markers on monument trails that they could go buy pedometers. Really.
So you can imagine my surprise last week when, right there at the bottom of Serpents Trail, I saw a brand new sign. A great big sign. It’s 43 inches by 36 inches, not at all like the little 6-by-6 inch earth-colored markers sticking a couple of inches out of the ground that my friend and I had envisioned every quarter of a mile. The new sign tells all about the trail and a bunch of other stuff. All of that information, plus much more, is available in any number of publications at the Monument Visitor Center in the bookstore, a very intelligently stocked, efficiently run and successful little enterprise, by the way, that is not operated by the National Park Service.
Most of the information on the new sign is on one of two signs across the road in the parking lot for Serpents Trail. Hikers have long chuckled when looking at those two signs, and wondered just exactly how long the trail is, since they are not in agreement on the subject. One sign says Serpents is 2.5 miles, the other says it’s 1.75 miles. The new sign also says 1.75 miles. None of them says whether that’s round-trip or one-way. So apparently the Park Service has either not paid much attention to its own signs or has not cared about how accurate they are.
But the signs aren’t really important. And I wouldn’t be writing about them at all if it were not for the fact that the Park Service will soon select a new superintendent for the monument.
When that happens, we who live here will do what we always do. We’ll welcome him or her. We know that whoever it is will wear many hats and will have many people to please. It’s not an easy job. We’ll do everything we can to help.
But we urge the Park Service: Please don’t forget that nobody loves the Colorado National Monument more than the people who live within a couple hours drive of the place — its neighbors. It may belong to all of the people in the United States. But it’s our backyard.