Chimney Rock is a special place in southwest Colorado, full of beauty and wrapped in Pueblo Indian history.
We were pleased to discover recently that President Obama apparently feels the same way about it.
He is set to designate Chimney Rock a national monument, a move that will help preserve the area for future generations.
The designation will be in keeping with the wishes of those who live in the region and has been a goal of some members of Colorado's congressional delegation for some years now. We have supported it as well.
Chimney Rock comprises 4,100 acres of San Juan National Forest land and is surrounded by the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.
The Chimney Rock Archaeological Area has the remains of prehistoric structures built 1,000 years ago by ancestors of the modern Puebloan tribes. Several have been partially restored for public visitation.
The site has deep spiritual significance to the tribes. It has been theorized that Ancestral Puebloans used the rock pinnacles that define Chimney Rock in the observation events called "lunar standstills."
A lunar standstill happens every 18.6 years, and at Chimney Rock it is a unique phenomenon. The full moon rises exactly between the two stone pillars of Chimney Rock and is visible only from the Chacoan Great House Pueblo, built in 1076.
Though the site has been studied, most notably by Frank W. Eddy and J. McKim "Kim" Malville, both from the University of Colorado, there is still much to be learned about its history and significance.
The designation of Chimney Rock as a national monument will help it compete for outside grants and funding that could help reveal more about the site.
It is managed by the U.S. Forest Service volunteers from the Chimney Rock Interpretive Association.
It also would put the site on the map, so to speak, making it a more likely destination for tourists. Their business would be greatly welcomed by those who live in the region and have been especially hard hit in this recent economic downturn.
Some in the world of politics have voiced concerns about how the designation is set to take place — the president using the Antiquities Act to make the designation instead of Congress voting to do so.
First, the president is well within his authority to do so. Second, can you imagine Congress ending its partisan wars long enough to do it? Sadly, neither can we. Third, we don't think the method matters a whit to the people of the region or to the integrity of the protection offered, and that's what counts most.
We look forward to the day the president makes the formal designation and we will celebrate with the people of southwest Colorado about the good news.