A Classic Western Quarrel:
A History of the Road Controversy at Colorado National Monument
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Origins of the Road Controversy: 1951-1980 (continued)

Local Use of Colorado National Monument, 1951-1980

Local use of the park between 1951 and 1980 created significant challenges to the Park Service. As local residents exercised what they felt were their rights to use the Monument, park officials became increasingly inflexible in their implementation of regulations. Although Mission 66 increased tourism, the Park Service's restrictive attitude was largely a result of local use of the park. After years of cooperation, local residents grew to resent both the Park Service and what they perceived as inconsistency in the Park Service's enforcement of regulations. They also felt that their past contributions to park development entitled them to a certain amount of freedom in their use of the park.

Use of the park by local residents included various types of activities. Much of the activity conformed with regulations, and was traditionally expected in National Park areas: picnicking, hiking, sightseeing, and camping. Other potentially damaging activities, however, were equally prevalent in the Monument. Between 1951 and 1959, vandalism, poaching, hunting, and littering occurred on a regular basis. In 1955, the prevalence of vandalism prompted park officials to remove a wayside exhibit at Cold Shivers Point. [436] In May 1956 vandalism occurred so frequently that a special article about it was printed in the Daily Sentinel. Part of the destruction appeared to be the result of ignorance, as local homeowners hauled dirt from the park to plant their new lawns. The majority of the acts, however, were "plain vandalism": cutting the boundary fences, carving initials on rocks significant for their ancient Indian petroglyphs, and shooting locks off picnic area gates. [437]

Activity on the Monument's boundaries was also cause for concern. Due to the uranium boom in Grand Junction during the 1950s, uranium mining was prevalent throughout the Grand Valley. In January 1955, patrols were made along the west boundaries of the park to check on reports of uranium mining. [438] By March 1955, the manager of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in Grand Junction was contacted by park officials about possible ore production on the west end of the park. Already a mining company on Glade Park regularly shipped ore over Rim Rock Drive. The locally based Atomic Power Uranium Company started unauthorized construction of a road in No Thoroughfare Canyon to access its claims in the portion of that canyon not yet included within park boundaries. When the local F.B.I. confronted the company, its owners agreed to destroy the road at their own expense. [439] Nevertheless, park officials afterward felt even more vulnerable to outside threats to the park.

Some of the activities that took place in the park had happened before the Monument was even established. The installation of cattle guards at the Grand Junction entrance in 1954 and at the Glade Park entrance in 1956 indicated that the issue of stock drives through the park had not been resolved. [440] In 1960 there were reports of stock being moved through the Monument to Glade Park. In May 1963, the western stock drive through the park was used on three different occasions. [441] Park officials tolerated this activity until an agreement could be reached.

Other uses of the park, most of them not locally initiated, revealed both the popularity of the park's scenery and the Park Service's willingness to remain open-minded and flexible to unusual requests. In 1953, for instance, MGM requested permission to spend two days shooting scenes in the Monument for an upcoming movie. Park officials advised them that permission would be granted only after they had an opportunity to discuss the project with the filmmakers. Eventually, the plans were postponed. [442] Nevertheless, the Monument continued to hold fascination for moviemakers. Nearly 30 years later, in the summer of 1984, sequences for the Warner Brothers film "American Flyers" were filmed in the Monument.

The Park Service response to violations involved increased implementation and enforcement of regulations. By 1961, park officials recognized the need to begin "special law enforcement practices." [443] Additionally, Colorado National Monument through the 1950s and early 1970s reduced its reliance on community input. While past decision-making was often based on advice from the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, the more recent years reflected an administration that frequently made decisions that were unpopular with the community. The relationship that had developed between local residents and Park Service officials at Colorado National Monument was now characterized by the Park Service's willingness or unwillingness to meet the needs and expectations of the communities adjacent to Colorado National Monument without compromising the integrity of the park itself.

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Last Updated: 09-Feb-2005