Superintendent: Park status won’t hurt businesses

Upgrading Colorado National Monument to a national park won’t harm the businesses that sit beneath and will boost them instead, the superintendent of the monument said.

Making the 20,000-acre monument a park “would not further restrict anything that would happen in the Grand Valley,” Superintendent Joan Anzelmo told the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors Thursday. “I think we will grow tourism exponentially with the change.”

Making the monument a park could boost annual visitation from about 700,000 annually to 1 million in a few years, Anzelmo said.

The chamber has appointed a committee to study the potential advantages and pitfalls of any change in the designation.

Key on the list of the committee’s responsibilities is to monitor legislation that would change the designation of the monument, a job being undertaken by a task force for the chamber.

“We hope we can insert protections for the business community” into legislation, should they be needed, said David Ludlam, the chairman of the task force and the executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “As a concept, the designation (as a park) is a win-win for everybody.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is crafting legislation that is to be introduced in the next session of Congress. A public meeting is planned in the Grand Valley before the new year.

The National Park Service administers the monument and, in many respects, the monument is treated as though it already were a park, Anzelmo said.

As to whether a national park could demand changes in air-quality standards, “the simple answer is no,” Anzelmo said.

Previous efforts to have the monument designated a national park have foundered for a variety of reasons, among them issues as to whether the sandstone monoliths and spires are of such quality as to qualify for national park designation, Anzelmo said.

More now is known about the monument and the characteristics that make it worthy of recognition, she said.

The erosion patterns that formed the monument’s hanging canyons are unique, as are some species of moths and butterflies, Anzelmo said.  The monument has fresh paleontological evidence of ancient life, as well as a history of human presence going back 10,000 years, she said.

The winding 23-mile route of Rim Rock Drive is a man-made wonder constructed at the cost of human life that couldn’t be duplicated today, Anzelmo said.

Although a park designation is expected to attract passers-by on Interstate 70 who might otherwise drive on to parks elsewhere in Colorado or Utah, the monument is being managed in ways that anticipate a growth in visitation, Anzelmo said.

“We’ve been betting on future visitation no matter what we’re called,” she said.


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