A College Professor Wants To Name A Mountain Peak After John Denver

Aug 9, 2011

A college professor says she has collected a couple of thousand signatures to name the eastern peak of Mount Sopris after musician John Denver. The would mean the second peak of Sopris, which sits at the northwest end of the Elk Mountains in western Colorado, would be known as "John Denver Peak."

J.P. McDaniel, who recently received a Ph. D. in ecopsychology, spoke to the Aspen Times:

She pointed out that Williams Lake, on the southeast side of Mount Sopris, was the spot where Denver wrote his 1972 hit "Rocky Mountain High," which since has become the one of two official state songs of Colorado. She said the peak is visible from the Windstar Land Conservancy — nearly 1,000 acres of farmland and wilderness area near Old Snowmass that Denver bought for conservation purposes in 1978 and donated to the environmental group he started, the Windstar Foundation.

"I didn't want just any mountain," McDaniel said. "The beauty and magnificence of Mount Sopris overlooks the Windstar Conservancy. It frames it. John Denver protected that land and donated it for public benefit. Naming the peak would honor his love for nature and his involvement with environmental preservation."

McDaniel added that she's not looking to rename the whole mountain just one of the two peaks.

But as her attempt has gotten some media coverage, those less enthralled with Denver, whose "Rocky Mountain High" was named one of Colorado's state songs in 2007, have started a "Don't name Mt Sopris after John Denver" Facebook group.

"Name it after someone that actually did something for Carbondale, not Aspen," wrote Greg Cody.

But the Facebook group will likely be the least of McDaniel's worry. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that the petition may not get too far, because of Wilderness Act rules:

Lou Yost, executive secretary for the board, said a big challenge for McDaniel's proposal — which he has yet to receive — could be the wilderness area question. Mount Sopris is in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.

Based on its interpretation of the Wilderness Act of 1964, "The board just feels that applying any more new names to features in wilderness areas detracts from the wilderness experience that future generations will have and it ... won't do it unless the proponent makes an overriding case," Yost said.

He said exceptions normally would be made for reasons such as safety, or perhaps educational purposes.

So what do you think? The question closes in seven days.

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