National Parks ‘listening sessions’ cost $38,320 and filter free speech


TAXPAYER-FUNDED LISTENING: ‘Listening sessions’ seeking public comment on the plan to prohibit certain vehicles from Mesa County’s Monument Road are costing taxpayers money and stifling speech.

By Marjorie Haun |

Lisa Eckert, the embattled National Parks director for the Colorado National Monument ,conducted ongoing “listening sessions” last week, seeking public comment on her plan to prohibit certain vehicles from Monument Road.

Monument Road is a public right-of-way that runs through the Colorado National Monument from the Grand Valley to the ranching community of Glade Park, Colo.

Eckert admits her plan to prohibit “hazardous material” hauls on Monument Road did not “land well,” but nevertheless appears to be pushing forward.

Following the June announcement of her unilateral prohibition of essential vehicles from Monument Road, Eckert received significant blowback, including a reprimand from Mesa County’s regional newspaper. But despite unyielding public opposition to her plan, Eckert continues to spend thousands on expensive “facilitators” to moderate and report on her “listening sessions.”

According to a Sept. 24 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel column (subscription required) by Gary Harmon, those hired to moderate Eckert’s series of listening sessions have cost American taxpayers well over $38,000. Harmon writes:

A Boulder-based company, CDR Associates, [last spring] planned and conducted listening sessions and interviews in connection with the drafting of a visitor activity and commercial services plan and a final report. The Park Service paid CDR $26,876.

Karen Barbee of Steadfast Communications received $11,444.80 for moderating the two October meetings. Barbee is a Glenwood Springs resident and certified trainer with the Center for Non-violent Communication.

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