A Classic Western Quarrel:
A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument
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Construction of Rim Rock Drive: 1931-1950 (continued)

The Postwar Years

The postwar years were characterized by a revitalization of the Colorado National Monument. Park activities abandoned during the war resumed; the checking station reopened in June 1946, and road maintenance once more became a priority. [391] At the same time, some of the older CCC buildings were removed and restoration of those areas commenced. [392] The most noticeable change was increased tourism. In March 1946, custodian Finch reported a 151 percent increase in the travel year to date, and in August 1946, a 785 percent increase was noted. [393] These phenomenal increases, however, were the source of conflict between rangers and visitors. One of the largest problems was that there were far more visitors than the limited personnel at the Monument could monitor. In 1946, it was estimated that about 75 percent of the visitor travel never reached the checking stations, which were located 4 miles from the Fruita entrance and 18 miles from the Grand Junction entrance to the park. There were no actual entrance stations in the park at this time. Most visitors entered and used the park without making contact with a ranger who could explain park regulations. Consequently, visitors' dogs ran leashless and people removed rocks, flowers, trees and other objects. Night travel became popular as people realized what a spectacular view of the Grand Valley the Monument afforded. Use of the park at night increased the probability of campfires in restricted areas. With rangers only able to make two complete loops of the park in an eight-hour period, much of the park was left unprotected. [394]

Local violations of park regulations during these years were prevalent. When local stockmen learned that Monument personnel were going to relocate their stock drives outside the park boundary, they were prepared to resist. Stock had originally been driven over the old Fruita Dugway and the Serpents Trail from Glade Park and Pinyon Mesa. When the Serpents Trail became part of the Rim Rock Drive, and the Dugway was obliterated during road construction, stockmen were without a road. The park's expansion in 1933 further exacerbated the situation because the proclamation made both access roads to Glade Park and Pinyon Mesa a part of the park. Eventually, an alternate road through the south end of No Thoroughfare Canyon was provided, but it was long, and often stock was held there overnight. Even though there was no water on this route, stockmen seemed temporarily satisfied. When park personnel suggested a road outside the park, a conflict arose. Although this plan was halted, both park officials and stockmen were left with unfavorable circumstances. Containing all the elements of a western conflict over land use, the situation included Park officials who did not want a permanent stock driveway through their Monument, and stockmen who wanted their old stock drives back. [395] For the time being, the situation remained static.

A relationship that was bound to become volatile was that between the Park Service and residents of the Glade Park region. The stock drive problem, and heavy trucking on Rim Rock Drive by landowners in Glade Park and Pinyon Mesa were issues that needed to be resolved. In spite of Park Service regulations to the contrary, marketable stock and wood were hauled over Rim Rock Drive by Glade Park residents. Both the county and the Forest Service used the road to haul heavy equipment from Pinyon Mesa, and by 1946, there was a rumor that a mining company planned to start a copper mine and haul ore from the Glade Park region. Park officials maintained that engineers never designed the road for this type of use. [396] Ironically, while many Glade Park residents began to resent the Park Service, many had also benefitted a great deal from the employment opportunities provided by the road project.

Despite some conflict, local initiatives also helped the park. A new road between Fruita and Grand Junction in June 1948 decreased the distance from Monument headquarters to Grand Junction from 23 to roughly 17 miles. Additionally, the town of Fruita and the State Highway Department put up new signs near the approach roads to the park. [397] Throughout road construction, Mesa County had improved approach roads to the park. During the postwar years, however, the county was often hired to maintain Rim Rock Drive. After the Park Service purchased the oil, the Mesa County Road Department applied it to the Rim Rock Drive in May 1948. [398]

While Mesa Verde still maintained its authority, Colorado National Monument personnel began to develop their own understanding of the Park Service and their duties. Breyton Finch was custodian of the park until February 1949, at which time the two rangers on duty took over that responsibility. In April 1949, Russell Mahan became superintendent. Mahan continued the important job of maintaining good relations with the community by attending Rotary Club meetings in both Grand Junction and Fruita. [399] The idea of "interpretive services" in which rangers kept track of the number of "contacts"—questions or discussions—they had with visitors or local residents, began during the postwar administration as well. "Contacts" also constituted speeches or meetings with local organizations. As always, the local factor played a role in Park Service activity on the Colorado National Monument. [400]

By 1950, the Colorado National Monument had entered a new phase in both its development as a tourist attraction and its relationship with the community. The cooperative relationship between the National Park Service and the communities adjacent to the Colorado National Monument was tested by Park Service attempts to regulate use of Monument facilities. After the road construction, the National Park Service controlled all aspects of park management. While the Park Service still recognized the importance of community support, it found that local use of the park accounted for most of the park's problems. Many of these difficulties resulted from the opening of Rim Rock Drive, but many of them, such as the stock driveways, had been developing since the park was set aside in 1911. Unlike the Otto years, however, the postwar years reflected far more use of the park by tourists and by local residents for recreational and nonrecreational uses. Relations with the local community were no longer as simple to define. Whereas it had once been important to keep the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and other local business groups happy, by 1950, the protection of the Colorado National Monument had become the first priority.

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Last Updated: 09-Feb-2005