Mesa County is not thriving like the rest of the state. The economy needs a spark, and it doesn’t help to whine about the loss of energy jobs. Instead, we must take advantage of the assets we already have to raise tax revenue. Changing the status of the Colorado National Monument to a national park is the spark we need.
A national monument is different than a national park. National parks protect areas that are scenic, inspirational, educational and recreational. National monuments are supposed to protect one specific object or area of interest. The Colorado National Monument’s name makes people think there is only one object of interest here, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The monument is 32 square miles of plateaus and canyons, with rugged rock formations that have been sculpted by erosion for more than a million years. Its beauty impressed park custodian John Otto so much that he fought for national park status. His dream was only partially realized when the area received its monument status in 1911.
According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, national park visitors need transportation, places to stay and dining options, which all support businesses and provide jobs in local communities.
Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit research group, says the economic benefits go beyond tourism. The value lies in the ability of the national park to attract and retain people, entrepreneurs, businesses and retirees. The National Park’s Economic Impact study shows the relationship between visitor spending and increased jobs and incomes for the surrounding region.
The area deserves recognition. Rim Rock Drive is an engineering marvel. The canyons are home to a wide range of wildlife, plants and trails that make it a magical, sensory place. Recreational activities are varied and available, just like at other national parks.
The recent attention focused on Bears Ears National Monument in Utah makes it clear that now is the time to make this change. If a U.S. president has the power to revoke a national monument’s designation, this regional treasure could be in danger of not being preserved for the benefit of the community and visitors. If we’re going to preserve the area for generations to come, we need to encourage Congress to make it a national park—without delay.
It’s time to honor the history of the Utes, Otto and the hard work of the laborers who built Rim Rock Drive. It’s time to preserve this special area as a national park. Write or call your federal officials with your feelings about it.
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