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A Western Slope federal parks official’s decision to limit access to Monument Road has touched off angry reactions from residents who depend on the route for their livelihoods.
With little public input from Glade Park ranching community residents and without consulting with the Board of Commissioners in Mesa County, National Park Service (NPS) Director at the Colorado National Monument Lisa Eckert recently announced that vehicles containing “hazardous” cargo would be banned from using the route they have used for decades.
Monument Road adjoins to Glade Park just a few miles inside the boundaries of the Colorado National Monument (CNM). Ranchers and other residents of Glade Park — a rural community situated on the plateau above CNM — use Monument Road to haul goods, equipment, hay, fertilizer, livestock, fuel, and other necessities, to and from their operations.
Eckert seeks to prohibit all these materials, whether or not they present a danger to traffic on the Monument and despite the fact that there been no reports of ‘hazardous materials’ being released into the environment due to an accident on the road.
A June 14 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel article by Gary Harmon details the unilateral decision made by the National Park Service:
Trucks hauling propane or other fuels to Glade Park no longer will be allowed to deliver to their customers via Monument Road as of Aug. 1, the National Park Service told residents.
Monument Road is being ruled out as a route for Glade Park deliveries because of safety concerns that were aired in listening sessions with Glade Park and other residents, Colorado National Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert said.
Eckert’s decision deals a blow to Glade Park residents, most of whom use propane for heating and require shipments of gasoline and other fuels for their farming equipment. Ranchers and farmers depend on the easy access that Monument Road provides from the Grand Valley to Glade Park at the top of the Monument.
The only alternative route is Little Park Road to the east of Monument Road which is longer, more difficult to navigate, and must pass through neighborhoods on several narrow, unimproved byways. Little Park Road presents many obstacles to those hauling goods to Glade Park, and increases the likelihood of future accidents.
The action was taken without regard for the personal and property rights of the citizens living adjacent to protected lands. Harmon’s article goes on to illustrate the NPS’s “bad neighbor” attitude with the words of one Glade Park resident:
“The notice comes as two federal lawmakers are considering legislation to redesignate Colorado National Monument as a national park and it undermines promises that nothing about the monument would change,” Glade Park resident Lynn Grose said.
Grose sat on a committee that in 2011 and 2012 studied the pros and cons of park status.
“We were promised over and over that there would be no change,” Grose said. “Now they’re making changes without even a national-park designation.”
This development makes national park designation more problematic because it provides a real-time example of government overreach. The NPS has challenged a nearly 30-year-old precedent that established permanent access to Monument Road for vehicles traveling to Glade Park.
Court Order Challenged
In 1986, Wilkenson vs. Department of the Interior resolved the landmark lawsuit brought by residents of the ranching community. The United States District Court rebuffed the NPS by giving ranchers and other Glade Park residents — regardless of what they might be hauling — full, free, and permanent access to Monument Road as the main route to and from their homes. The court rejected attempts by the NPS to levy fees for use of the road, as well as to ban commercial traffic.
The decision on behalf of Glade Park residents was unequivocal:
ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, that a public right of way exists in that portion of Rim Rock Drive extending from the East entrance of the Colorado National Monument to the Glade Park Cut-Off, and across the Glade Park Cut-Off, connecting the DS Road in Glade Park with the Monument Road to Highway 340, and the use of that road for the purpose of continuous travel through the Monument is a non-recreational use for which no entrance fee may lawfully be charged, and the defendants are enjoined from charging any such fee or otherwise preventing such non-recreational use of the roadways. The Clerk shall enter judgment, accordingly, and the plaintiffs are awarded their costs upon the filing of a bill of costs within 10 days from the entry of judgment.
In light of the Wilkenson ruling, the latest NPS decision is clearly unlawful, and ultimately damaging to the hoped-for redesignation of the Colorado National Monument to a national park. It’s unlikely that this is the end of the ongoing saga of the battle for Monument Road, now waged for decades by the NPS against residents of Glade Park over, what is in essence, a lifeline sustaining a small ranching community on the outskirts of the Colorado National Monument.
Eckert’s office has not responded to several requests for a statement from Watchdog Wire Colorado.
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