Pros and cons part of needed deliberations over monumental change

While it’s yet to be determined whether or not the Colorado National Monument should become a national park, it’s difficult to argue the monument doesn’t merit serious consideration of that possibility.

Whether it’s a first or 50th trip over Rimrock Drive, the scenic excursion never fails to evoke a sense of wonderment at the deep canyons and towering spires passing by. That’s not to mention the discoveries that await those who get out of their vehicles to explore the monument on a more intimate level. The Colorado National Monument definitely deserves inclusion among those few places justifiably described as awesome.

The question isn’t so much if the Colorado National Monument meets the criteria to become a national park, but whether such a change is in the best interests of the community. A 16-member committee with broad representation of business interests, government entities and the groups that promote the monument has been charged with deliberating that very issue.

The results of a recent survey conducted by the committe offer a look at some of the publicly perceived pros and cons of the issue.

The biggest perceived benefit of the change involves the potential for increased tourism a nearby national park could generate — 46 percent of those who responded to the survey cited that very factor. Following close behind was the higher visibility and improved image for the region cited by 41 percent of respondents. Another

37 percent of respondents said the change would give the monument the recognition it deserves.

Although the Colorado National Monument ranks among the top attractions in the Grand Valley, there’s always been some confusion over what first-time visitors will find there. Some unwitting tourists expect to see a statue or roadside marker. There’s no such confusion over the expectations associated with a national park.

Still, 29 percent of those who participated in the survey said nothing about the proposal excited them.

The survey results also revealed some concerns raised by the prospect of changing a national monument into a national park. The top concern cited by

29 percent of the respondents involved potential restrictions on traffic and how they could affect their ability to recreate in the monument. Another 26 percent of respondents said they were worried about how the change might degrade their personal experiences. Still another 25 percent cited concerns about regulatory oversight, including rules involving air quality.

Information gleaned from the survey results will be used to formulate the information that will be presented at four community open houses planned for early April.

The best part about the deliberations over the monument change so far is that the process has been directed from the bottom up rather than by lawmakers or bureaucrats seeking to impose national park designation from the top down.

It does no good to propose legislation creating a national park without substantial support from the community most affected by the change.

So let the debate continue. And if it’s determined a change really is in the interests of the Grand Valley, here’s looking forward to the creation of a national park that deserves that designation.