Monument park status not a topic at celebration

Colorado National Monument was hailed as worthy as a site of worship, but officials steered clear Saturday of the pricklier issue of whether it’s worthy to be a national park.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., reflected Saturday on the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the monument before about 600 people gathered at the visitor center.

Gesturing over Monument Canyon, Tipton said ochre sandstones and towering pinnacles inspire awe.

“You can’t help but believe that this is a land that has truly been touched by the hand of God,” Tipton said.

Udall noted the presence of a red-tailed hawk circling above and said the wild creatures of the monument served as “the choir for the sermons in stone” captured in the cliffs, steep canyons and weathered rock formations.

The national parks remain “the best idea we ever had,” Udall said, recalling Wallace Stegner, and remembered that the Utes considered the spires and deep cuts in the earth to be a sacred place.

Even without religious implications, “When you set foot in the monument, there’s this delicious feeling of freedom that envelops you,” Udall said.

Tipton and Udall appointed a 16-member committee to study changing the designation of the monument to a national park, an idea broached last year by Udall, who said he still supports it.

Grand Valley residents, however, will have the final word on whether the monument should change its designation, Udall and Tipton said.

The decision is weighty, Tipton said, and could play a role in whether visitors a century from now will have the “John Otto experience” that led the Missouri wanderer to stay in the Grand Valley and lead the effort that resulted in the establishment of Colorado National Monument a century ago.


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