Residents to write park bill
A committee of Grand Valley residents will begin writing a bill intended to confer park status on Colorado National Monument with the hope that drafting legislation will win over some who have withheld support.
There is no deadline for a committee of five to come up with a bill, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said Saturday after meeting with committee members near the visitor center and overlook into Monument Valley.
The committee is to draft a measure that will be “at its core, community-driven,” Tipton said, noting that he had been presented with petitions opposing monument status. As legislation is written to address local issues, some on the fence or in opposition might join in support of the bill, Tipton said.
Udall said the committee will explore legislation that he hoped would bring the Grand Valley together on “this iconic landscape.”
Much of the support of park status for the monument has been couched in economic terms, such as encouraging greater visitation, and that aspect has obscured a major point, said Ginny McBride, chairwoman of the Colorado National Monument Association.
Colorado National Monument “truly is worthy of national-park designation,” McBride said.
McBride is a member of the executive committee, as are Glade Park rancher Warren Gore, Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman Michael Burke, consultant and former congressional staffer Kristi Pollard, and Jamie Lummis, a member of the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and the USA Pro Challenge bicycle race organizing committee.
Gore is the only member of the committee who served on a study committee that considered park status for more than a year, but which issued no recommendation.
Gore, who was active more than a decade ago in fending off plans by the Clinton administration to expand the monument under the Antiquities Act of 1906, said the issue of the monument’s status comes every 10 to 15 years and that it might be time to end that cycle.
“There is an opportunity here, maybe, to be proactive,” Gore said.
Park status for the monument has attracted support from Grand Valley chambers of commerce and municipalities, as well as the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, but the various organizations have made their support conditional on preserving the existing boundaries and air-quality status, and insulating industry, such as oil and gas, from threats based on their possible effects on the monument.
Another condition is that a local oversight committee have veto power over certain Park Service decisions, such as professional bike races along 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. Park Service rejections of the races have rankled supporters in the Grand Valley as the races have gone elsewhere.
Similar accommodations were reached with local governments in connection with turning Rocky Flats on the Front Range into a wildlife area, Pollard said.
Udall heads the Senate subcommittee that would deal with redesignation of the monument, and Tipton is a member of the House committee that would handle such a bill.
Park status opponents have cited fears that legislation could be gutted against the will of local backers.
If that happens, “The community is looking for you guys to put it back on the rails,” Burke said.
Burke agreed to join the committee because it needed a “voice of business,” he said.
Udall, Tipton and the committee members met Saturday in a room of the Stone House near the visitor center. Inside the room was a plaque marked “Let’s be #60.”
The National Park Service now manages 59 parks.
The initiative garnered the support of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which includes former monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, which said park designation “will more appropriately recognize the superlative landscape” and the geology and paleontology of the site.
There is no rush on legislation, Udall told the executive committee.
“It’s a long process to create a national park,” Udall said. “We’re going to proceed slowly and meticulously.”