Community must rally behind change of name for monument, says Rep. Tipton

The nomenclatural fate of Colorado National Monument ought to be the subject of a Grand Valley-wide discussion, said U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

Whether the monument is to be upgraded to a park “needs to be community driven,” Tipton told the editorial board of The Daily Sentinel on Thursday. It might be that the monument suffers less from a lack of recognition of its wind- and water-carved wonders and more from a lack of good marketing, Tipton said.

Tipton said his staff would help coordinate discussion of the idea and work with local and federal officials to make sure that any change fits in with residents’ desires as well as avoid any pitfalls that a change of designations might pose.

Tipton’s comments arrive on the heels of a listening session last month by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., about whether the monument should be upgraded to a national park. Supporters of the change point to the need to eliminate confusion by people who might think the monument amounted to nothing more than a road sign.

It’s an open question whether the change would increase visitation at the monument, Tipton said.

“We now have a national monument outdrawing two national parks,” Tipton said of visitation to Colorado National Monument and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes national parks.

“Based on the information I have seen so far, the best option to increase visitation to the monument appears to be a name change and a community marketing effort,” Tipton said in a statement.

In 2010, the monument attracted more than 400,000 visitors, more than double the fewer than 200,000 who visited Black Canyon and well ahead of the nearly 300,000 who visited Great Sand Dunes.

Counting local visits and people driving to Glade Park, monument officials logged more than 780,000 visits.

A study by the National Park Service and Michigan State University said spending related to monument visitation grew from $19 million in 2008 to $25 million in 2010.

Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen said many questions remain, from whether Glade Park residents could enjoy the same uses of Rim Rock Drive that they have of late; how microwave and cellphone towers atop Black Ridge would be affected; and how Fruita’s waterline through the monument might be affected.

Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said the Class II airshed for the monument won’t change if the area becomes a park, and Fruita would be able to use its pipeline through the monument no matter its status.

Changing the status might be an economic boon, but there are other economic questions, Petersen said.

“What kind of rules might impact the ability of Fruita and Grand Junction to create jobs and pursue economic development?” Petersen said. “If a big manufacturing company comes along, can we build it?”

Local officials don’t want to find out the answer too late when a designation has been made and can’t be reversed, Petersen said.


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