Listening sessions designed to engage people in the communities surrounding Colorado National Monument in a discussion about park uses and visitor experience drew about 100 people this week. The meetings were designed and led by a neutral third-party facilitator with several National Park Service (NPS) staff serving as additional facilitators and subject matter experts.
“We wanted to strengthen our relationship with our local communities and stakeholders, and begin to establish a dialogue with them,” said park Superintendent Lisa Eckert. “The meetings were designed to get open and honest public input about what uses the public wants to see at the monument while helping educate participants about our mission and how we make decisions.”
The first meeting was held Tuesday in the town of Fruita Community Center, where about 50 people attended the three-hour session. Participants began the meeting in a room with an open house format where they could visit four separate stations to learn about the role of the NPS in managing the park; park resources; enjoyment and use of park resources; and visitor experience. Each station had a facilitator and subject matter expert. Once the participants had a chance to gather information they went into another room where they had a chance to sit at tables with a facilitator and discuss their thoughts and concerns about the same four issues they had learned about in the open house.
“Discussions were open, candid and very civil,” Eckart said. “There were conversations where people had strong opinions and sometimes vigorously disagreed with one another. Many resulted in solid, constructive ideas about how the park could work more effectively with the public and stakeholders.”
A number of participants told the facilitators that they both had a chance to be heard, and they also learned more about the park’s mission and how the Park Service makes decisions. They really felt it deepened their understanding of how we do business.”
The second meeting was held Wednesday in Grand Junction, Colorado at Mesa State University. About 50 people attended that meeting as well. The neutral facilitator, CDR Associates of Boulder, Colorado, publish a report summarizing the discussions and recommendations. That report will be sent to all participants and posted on the park’s web site.