|Monday, May 23, 2011|
Colorado National Monument celebrated its 100th anniversary on Saturday, May 21st, with 600 people gathered for the occasion in a festive canopy tent adjacent to the visitor center.
Senator Mark Udall, the keynote speaker, recalled that his uncle, the late Stewart Udall, was a staunch advocate for national parks in his role as Interior Secretary during the 1960s.
“At the heart of our values is the belief in freedom,” Udall told the crowd. “I know when you set foot in the monument there is a delicious feeling of freedom.”
Udall also said that Wallace Stegner certainly got it right when he wrote, "National parks are the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."
Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels noted that, long before Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain became national parks, there was already Colorado National Monument. Wessels called Colorado National Monument “ahead of its time” when it became the 25th unit of the National Park System on May 24, 1911. Wessels noted that the monument has really come into its own as a major visitor destination in modern times and with a particularly dedicated and tight knit staff.
Superintendent Joan Anzelmo welcomed the large gathering. “I would like to thank all of our special guests—and those special guests are each and every one of you who is here today,” she said.
The ceremony opened with a Native American blessing and song by Clifford Duncan, a Ute elder and tribal historian. “May God bless America,” Duncan said.
Anzelmo concluded the ceremony by offering her definition of the integral role of national parks in America.
“They tell our story as a people; the glory and the shame, the triumphs and the tragedies,” she said. “They provide places for sublime peace and contemplation and places for adventurous exploration. Their reservoirs of scientific knowledge and discoveries are helping cure diseases, solve crimes and are recording the beginnings of the earth to the present day changes in our planet… I say we need them now more than ever.”
Additional featured speakers and special guests included Congressman Scott R. Tipton, 3rd District of Colorado; Colorado State Representative Laura Bradford; storyteller/re-enactor John Stansfield as the legendary John Otto, the first superintendent/custodian who campaigned for national park status during the early 20th Century. Guests were treated to a musical performance by the Grand Junction Symphony Brass Ensemble.
After the festivities, hundreds of visitors took part in the grand opening of the new Multimedia Exhibits at the Visitor Center. The new exhibits replace the 47-year-old exhibits installed when the building first opened in 1964. Exhibits feature many state of the art elements that highlight the geology of the Colorado Plateau, the pinyon-juniper woodland, and the three extraordinary chapters of human history, beginning with Ute Indians in the 19th Century, followed by Otto in the early 20th Century, and road builders of Rim Rock Drive during the 1930s.
Colorado National Monument’s website will soon have a gallery page with photos and speeches of the Centennial celebration as well as photos the new exhibits.