GOWD snubs wilderness group

Committee says action taken to avoid making event political

A local environmental group was not allowed to set up a booth at Grand Olde West Days after registering and paying for a spot at the holiday festival.

The Colorado Wilderness Network was not allowed to set up a booth for GOWD, and was notified a week before the Memorial Day weekend that the organization would not be allowed to participate.

"We had sent in our check and were registered, but then we got a letter that said our being there would 'take away from the idea that we are trying to promote' and our check was returned," said Jennifer Seidenberg, northwest field organizer for the Colorado Wilderness Network.

"We aren't a political party, we don't endorse candidates. We wanted to meet the community and start some dialogue. The only thing we wanted to distribute was a hiking guide on Colorado that shows some of the hikes that are available in Moffat County."

Seidenberg points out that labeling their organization "political" because of its stance on wilderness designations isn't fair because the Moffat County Off Road Hounds, who were allowed to set up a display, "definitely has a perspective on wilderness."

GOWD board member Craig Police Sgt. Bill Leonard said the decision not to allow the three-day event to be used as a political forum was made almost two years ago and the Colorado Wilderness Network "fit under those guidelines.

"We decided last year, or it might have been the year before, we didn't want political booths or campaigning for a county commissioner or sheriff or anything like that during Grand Olde West Days," Leonard said. "The coalition is pretty political.

"The 4x4 club didn't handout any brochures or anything pushing their views. They just set up their trucks for people to look at they didn't want to handout any literature about wilderness."

Leonard said the initial invitation to the Colorado Wilderness Network was a mistake, made by a board member that had missed the meeting where the original decision not to allow the organization to set up a booth was made.

"When they first showed an interest, we asked to see any literature they would bring they never sent it," he said. "We decided not to allow them to come, but one of our board members, who missed that meeting, told them they could. So we asked again to see what they wanted to handout, but they never responded. They were given the opportunity to show what they wanted to bring, but they didn't respond."

Seidenberg, who's office is in Steamboat Springs, said the organization was willing to show the hiking pamphlets they wanted to hand out, and she attempted to contact Pam Lathrop, the board member in charge of booths, four times but her calls were not returned.

"One of the things we've been asked by the (Moffat County) commissioners in the past is why haven't we talked to local people about wilderness?" she said.

"We saw this as an opportunity to have dialogues with community members, to just talk with people, and give out some information on hiking but we weren't allowed to do this."

The Colorado Wilderness Network was given two opportunities to show the board the literature the organization wanted to hand out and that request was never responded to, so the GOWD board's decision was a fair one and shouldn't even be and issue, Leonard said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.