This Arizona Monument Could Be Our Next National Park
If a new bipartisan bill passes, the desert rock formations and forests of Chiricahua National Monument could become America's newest national park.
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Three members of Arizona’s congressional delegation have reintroduced a bill that would redesignate Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument as a national park.
The national monument currently protects more than 12,000 acres of land in Cochise County. First established as a monument about 100 years ago, the destination quickly became popular due to its unique rock formations, which came into existence after a volcanic eruption took place 27 million years ago.
Chiricahua National Monument is a popular hiking and camping destination, featuring a variety of short trails. Visitors often travel to the monument to sample dayhikes like the Echo Canyon Loop – a 3.3-mile trail that takes hikers through formations like the Grottoes and Wallstreet before spitting them out into a forested area where they can see prickly pear, yuccas, agave, and hedgehog cactus. The monument is also part of the ancestral homeland of the Chiricahua Apache nation, and home to historic and prehistoric sites dating back more than a thousand years.
Arizona’s Senators Mark Kelly (D) and Kyrsten Sinema (I) are supporting the measure in the Senate, while Representative Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ) is its main backer in the house. Redesignating Chiricahua as a national park will not only heighten protections for vulnerable natural and historical resources, they say, it will also boost the local economy. In a statement about the bill, Congressman Ciscomani stated that “tourism is an important part of our regional economy. With this legislation, the Chiricahuas will finally receive the designation they deserve. It is long overdue.”
In a statement, Sinema concurred.
“Arizona has the best national parks in the world,” she said. “Adding Chiricahua National Monument as Arizona’s fourth national park will boost tourism, create jobs, and fuel opportunity in Cochise County.”
This isn’t the first attempt to name Chiricahua a national monument. Last year, the Senate easily passed a similar bill with support from both sides of the aisle. after experiencing support on both sides of the aisle. But the bill never made it through the House.
If successful, Chiricahua would become the state’s first new national park since 1994, when Congress redesignated Saguaro National Monument as Saguaro National Park.
Unlike national monuments, which presidents can establish by proclamation, establishing national parks requires an act of Congress. National parks tend to enjoy both better funding opportunities and more prestige among visitors than monuments. In an era when national park visitation is steadily on the rise, establishing a new national park in Arizona could help alleviate some of the pressure on more popular NPS sites.
If the new bill makes it through congress, Chiricahua National Monument would become Arizona’s fourth national park after Grand Canyon, Saguaro, and Petrified Forest National Parks.