John Denver peak-naming effort still alive, says fan leading the charge

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Last year, Littleton resident J.P. McDaniel's push to name the east peak of Mount Sopris after singer John Denver made national headlines -- but a story last week implied that the campaign might have reached its expiration date. Not so, says McDaniel, who stresses that her slow and steady approach is intended to boost the odds that her efforts, and those of approximately 3,000 fans who've signed a petition supporting the designation, are successful.

"I'm really sorry this story came out without people talking to me," says McDaniel about an Aspen Times article published Friday. The report noted that she had not yet submitted her petition and application to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, the government body in charge of such matters, even though its executive secretary, Lou Yost, expected it last summer.

Her drive "is still going," she adds. "It's still underway."

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Mount Sopris.
From the beginning, McDaniel stressed that the naming of the peak after Denver was meant as a hat-tip to Denver's environmentalism. She notes that he 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?

Her idea was immediately embraced by Denver fans, who quickly boosted the number of signatures affixed to an online petition to 2,680; McDaniel says additional physical signatures bring the total to around 3,000. However, there was also considerable backlash to the notion, as witnessed by comments like this one, posted in response to our original coverage:

John Denver was a cocaine addict who once told TV Guide that the highlight of his week was mowing his Starwood lawn in the nude. I hate this idea. Hate it. I'm a 4th generation native of Garfield County. Leave our mountain alone.

McDaniel acknowledges that some reactions to the naming concept were negative. "There's just something about things connected with John Denver," she says. "People either really support it and love it or they're just spitting nails. It's almost like there's not a gay area. They're either on one side of the fence or the other."

However, she goes on, "by far, far, far, the majority of people supported it, even though, unfortunately, some of the opposition took it to a level that was not very professional."

For one thing, McDaniel had to battle misconceptions. "This was never about renaming Mount Sopris," she stresses. "It's about assigning a name to an unnamed peak on Mount Sopris." Nevertheless, she goes on, "there was a group of people in Carbondale who were saying, 'Don't rename the mountain.' And even when things were presented to them, explained to them -- that this wasn't renaming Mount Sopris -- it didn't seem to fit in their program."

Page down to continue reading about the effort to name a peak for John Denver.

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