If a professional bike race charging through Colorado National Monument is the key to the rugged red-rock landscape and its treasures in western Colorado being redesignated as a "national park," then it's time to end the discussion over a name change.
The contention by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper that running a stage of the 2012 Quiznos Pro Challenge through the monument "can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the Monument as a National Park" is shortsighted and seemingly shows a failure to fully appreciate that which the monument preserves.
Within its 20,534 acres Colorado Monument offers visitors not just the soaring beauty of rock monoliths reaching into the sky and intriguing and fragile cryptobiotic soil crusts essential to life on the Colorado Plateau but also tombs of fossilized dinosaur remains and their footprints and puzzling traces of prehistoric cultures. All set against a colorful ruddy sandstone backdrop.
No doubt, it would be a dazzling backdrop for television cameras following more than 100 elite cyclists during one stage of their seven-day run through Colorado. But the impacts and disruptions it would have on the monument alone make it unsuitable. Superintendent Joan Anzelmo says the race would require the monument to be closed to the public for at least 12 hours during the monument's high summer season, and during the race aircraft would hover overhead the peloton while support vehicles and caravans carrying VIPs snake along Rim Rock Drive behind the racers.
While professional bike racing is exciting to watch, and the red-rock beauty of Colorado Monument a breathtaking postcard for not just Colorado but the entire National Park System, the two don't belong together. Yosemite National Park officials back in 2009 reached a similar conclusion when they declined a request to allow a professional bike race to weave through the Yosemite Valley.
Commercial activities that prevent use of the park by visitors have no place in NPS areas. To contend that such a race is necessary to heighten the prospects of redesignating Colorado Monument as a national park is terribly myopic and undervalues the wonders that exist there.
If generating more tourism dollars for the surrounding area is what really is driving Mr. Udall and Mr. Hickenlooper, a much more lasting and stronger driver would be the "national park" imprint, something Mr. Udall can advance through legislation that rightfully stands on the well-established merits of the monument.