A simple petition to honor the late singer John Denver with a peak in Colorado is stirring up a bit of Rocky Mountain controversy.
The famous singer/songwriter, born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., had a special place in his heart for the state — with songs like "Rocky Mountain High" (which became Colorado's second state song) and "Aspen Glow" all inspired by the gorgeous natural beauty of the region.
J.P. McDaniel, who started the petition, believes Denver's environmental work should be praised as well, with the simple act of naming a mountain peak after the singer the perfect gesture. “He won many different awards for his conservation work, his environmental work. I think some people don’t realize this, how active he was with environmental causes,” she told The Daily Sentinel.
Indeed, besides founding the organizations Windstar Foundation (to promote sustainable living) and Plant-It 2020 (engaged in worldwide tree-planting), Denver also publicly opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, fronted for a number of environmental organizations, and donated 1,000 Colorado acres to the public for the Windstar Land Conservancy.
“I think because it would be John Denver and all of the work that he has put forth, all of the effort that he has put forth with wilderness preservation, I think that it would be appropriate to name a peak in his honor,” McDaniel added.
Others, however, aren't so quick to agree — with one detractor blaming Denver's songs for driving up the population. "You have to admit that John Denver and his lyrics inspired more people to move to Colorado than kept them away," David Chamberlain wrote The Aspen Times. "There are new scars upon the land in that proposition. Not all mountain peaks need names."
The mountain that McDaniel is eyeing is Mount Sopris, named after a man who led a prospecting expedition near the site. What most people get confused about is that the goal isn't to rename the mountain, but rather to rename one of its twin peaks. Unfortunately, Mount Sopris also sits in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, which may present a legal issue for the proposal.
According to Lou Yost of the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, the Wilderness Act of 1964 limits new names to wilderness areas, so as not to detract from the "experience that future generations will have." He said exceptions are generally only made for cases involving educational or safety reasons or "an overriding need."
McDaniels is hopeful that need is represented by the more than 2,500 signatures she's submitted to the board. "To the state, to the region, John Denver is part of our history here, in the minds of people, in the hearts of people and geographically," she told NPR.
What do you think? Should John Denver be honored with a Colorado mountain peak?
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