by Kim Upson
HERE IS A THOUGHTFULLY WRITTEN LETTER TO THE FREE PRESS WHICH LISTS MANY OF THE CONCERNS WE NEED TO SERIOUSLY CONSIDER IN THE QUEST FOR MORE TOURIST DOLLARS:
Why are some in favor of the National Park? I hear them say they want the purported economic impact from increased tourism business. (They don’t care about the negative impact on the residents of the Redlands by more traffic.) They ignore the seasonal nature of tourism and the low-paying jobs that tourism brings. They actually believe people ignore the Monument because it’s not on the list of national parks, despite many other attractions that already lure tourists here, such as skiing, wineries, bicycling, and hunting, making the Monument an obvious bonus.
Opponents believe the Monument already has as many visitors as the narrow and dangerous road, the inadequate parking, and the fragile soil covering near Monument trails will allow without irreversible damage. That is why opposition crosses all political and economic classes. Hikers and bicyclists use Monument and adjacent residential roads that are currently safe because they are not heavily traveled, but increased buses or RVs on those narrow roads will discourage such recreational use.
But the most important factor in opposition to a national park is that we just can’t trust the promises of Senator Udall’s draft bill that our valley will remain Class II air quality. The EPA has designated all national parks and wilderness areas in the West as Class I — for a 150-mile radius. Also, the Retired National Park Employees’ Association opposes any special considerations for this community. Their Washington lobbyist will be working hard to strip any caveats from the bill.
The effect of an EPA Class I designation on energy and agricultural uses would be devastating to our local economy, with unequal replacement by any amount of tourism.
If the EPA can ruin farmers (food producers!) in California by withholding water for 90 percent of their cropland in order to protect a fish, it will not hesitate to ruin energy development in western Colorado. Thousands of good-paying, year-round jobs would disappear.
There are six National Monuments in Colorado that draw visitors without more government restrictions on local communities. We have raised two generations in Grand Junction, so why would we do anything that could destroy the local economy and make it impossible to make a decent living here?
The Monument is not broken, so please don’t try to fix it!
Stephen and Darleen Gsell
Grand Junction, Colo.
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