John Denver: Petition to name Mt. Sopris peak for him collects over 1,600 signatures & counting

In an April post about the John Denver Tribute Concert and Colorado Hall of Fame Induction, I conceded that JD's music triggers my gag reflex. But others feel differently about the late Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., including J.P. McDaniel, the Littleton resident behind a petition to name the east peak of Mount Sopris for him. And her quest seems to be gaining traction.

McDaniel, a college professor, tells the Aspen Times that the naming is meant as a hat-tip to Denver's environmentalism, not his long-ago hit ditties. She notes that Denver wrote "Rocky Mountain High," one of Colorado's official state songs, at Williams Lake, near Mount Sopris. And not only is the peak she's targeting visible from the Windstar Land Conservancy, one of Denver's legacies, but it doesn't even have an official name. So why not his?

The list of folks signing the online petition making this argument continues to grow. When I started writing this post, the total stood at 1,667 -- and when I checked seconds ago, it stood at 1,687. Here's the text of the petition:

To: U.S. Board on Geographic Names Support for the naming of "John Denver Peak"

Naming a geographic feature after a significant person is a way of honoring an individual for their contributions to others, with commemorative naming providing a continued remembrance of their important accomplishments.

John Denver contributed much to enrich many lives. His timeless music brings enjoyment to people worldwide; his numerous humanitarian projects continue to bring about positive changes; and his passionate environmental and conservation efforts remain significant.

Naming a peak in his beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains after John Denver is long overdue. Therefore, it is being formally proposed to the Executive Secretary for Domestic Geographic Names, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, and the U.S. Secretary of Interior that the unnamed east peak of Mount Sopris be formally named "John Denver Peak." The peak is located in the Maroon Bells -- Snowmass Wilderness area in Pitkin County, Colorado. This peak is 12,965 feet in elevation, and is near Williams Lake where John composed the Colorado state song Rocky Mountain High, and also overlooks John's preserved Windstar Land Conservancy. This name will be used for all federal maps and publications.

Naming a geographic feature is a complicated effort that must follow a strict process of principles, policies, and procedures with local, state, and federal approval. Preparation for this name proposal began almost two years ago and has now reached the stage for public support.

Criteria summary for naming a geographic feature to commemorate an individual includes:

• Must be previously unnamed. • Cannot be named after a living person. Person must be deceased for at least 5 years. • Name should be short and easily pronounced. • Suggested by local history. • Must contain evidence of local support for the proposed name and its application (petitions, letters, newspaper articles, signatures). • Approval must be obtained from local governing bodies. • Determined to be in public interest to honor the person for historical or commemorative reasons. • Person must have an outstanding national and international reputation. • Person must have a direct and long-term association with the feature or a significant contribution to the area or state in which it is located. • Person must have played a large part in protecting the land for public benefit.

The naming of "John Denver Peak" on Mount Sopris meets each of these criteria.

We, the undersigned, support the naming of John Denver Peak on the east side of Mount Sopris in Pitkin County, Colorado. This signature will become part of a formal proposal sent to state and federal agencies in May 2011.


The Undersigned

To see the current signatures, click here.

More from our Comment of the Day archive: "Reader: John Denver was a Colorado treasure, and anyone who disagrees is an idiot."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts