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updated 8/8/2011 4:24:56 PM ET 2011-08-08T20:24:56

Thousands of Coloradans have signed a petition to honor environmentalist and "Rocky Mountain High" singer John Denver by naming a peak after him in the central Rockies close to where Denver penned the song.

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But the U.S. Board on Geographic Names said federal policy is to avoid adding names to peaks in federal wilderness areas, and Mount Sopris, a majestic volcanic summit west of Aspen, is in one.

Others prefer a different place to recognize the revered singer, whose "Rocky Mountain High" is an official Colorado state song.

And still others oppose the idea because they just don't like the music of Denver, who was killed in a California plane crash in 1997.

Littleton resident J.P. McDaniel said she has thousands of signatures supporting her idea to name the east peak of the 12,965-foot mountain after Denver. She's sending application documents to the geographic names board, which is based in Reston, Va. A review process could take up to a year.

"This is to bring awareness of a person who really made a difference and gave a lot of his life to environmental issues. I think he'd be OK with it," McDaniel told The Associated Press on Monday.

McDaniel said she chose the mountain's east peak because Denver wrote "Rocky Mountain High" at Williams Lake, on the east side of Mount Sopris, which was named after Richard Sopris, an early Denver mayor who led a prospecting expedition nearby.

It's also in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, which poses a problem. The geographic board's executive secretary, Lou Yost, said that under the board's interpretation of the Wilderness Act of 1964, applying new names to features in wilderness areas detracts from the wilderness experience.

Exceptions can be made for safety or educational reasons, he added.

But McDaniel said Congress set a precedent by renaming South Hunter Peak in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve after the late Sen. Ted Stevens, who was killed last year in a plane crash.

Not everyone is on board with the plan.

Carol Kurt of the Colorado Mountain Club in Aspen, about 20 miles east of Mount Sopris, said she has climbed the mountain eight times.

"I actually like it as Mount Sopris," Kurt said. Upon further reflection, she said, it wouldn't hurt to name one of the twin peaks after Denver.

McDaniel, who said she met Denver in the 1980s, said some comments she has received have been hurtful.

"One person said (Denver) was just a human muppet, while others said his music was too syrupy. There are only a few opponents, but they're really loud," she said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: High times in Denver

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  1. Fronting the Front Range

    Denver lies at the base of the Rocky Mountains and is a commercial hub for the Mountain States. Its elevation is officially 5,280 feet. (Stan Obert / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A full Platte

    Park goers watch from the banks of the Platte River at Denver's Confluence Park as a couple of kayakers make their way through the white water. Denver has more than 200 parks, rivers and trail areas, public golf courses and recreation centers. (Ed Andrieski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Cleaning up town

    Phoebe and Joel Mackler are dwarfed by the size of a sculpture of a broom and dustpan at the Denver Art Museum in downtown Denver. Admission to the art musem is free on the first Saturday of every month. (Ed Andrieski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Peak-a-boo!

    The sun breaks through the clouds to highlight the summit of Pikes Peak as seen from the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Ed Andrieski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Dome of the Rockies

    The Colorado State Capitol Building is located downtown at the east end of Civic Center Park. The 15th step on the west side of the building is exactly 1 mile above sea level. (Stan Obert / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Red Rocks and rock concerts

    Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a 9,000-seat arena that has been carved out of the local sandstone rock formations. Located 12 miles west of Denver, the venue has hosted everyone from the Beatles to top symphony orchestras. (Ron Ruhoff / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Downtown shopping

    Denver Pavilions on the 16th Street Mall has nearly 50 shops and restaurants. Located downtown near the Colorado Convention Center, the lively shopping center hosts a number of concerts and festivals. (Stan Obert / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. High ball

    Coors Field, the home of Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies, has 50,000 seats, most with great views of Denver and the mountains. (Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Belles of the mountains

    The Maroon Bells, a range of snowcapped peaks near Aspen, is one of the most photographed spots in Colorado. (Stan Obert / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The cowboy way

    Paul Stewart founded the Black American West Museum, which tells the story of African-American cowboys. (David Falconer / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. It's the water

    The Downtown Aquarium immerses visitors on two journeys, one from the Continental Divide in Colorado to Mexico's Sea of Cortez, the other from an Indonesian rain forest to the Pacific Ocean. (Randy Brown / Denver Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
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