National Park Service officials are being lobbied by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to allow a professional bike race to zoom through Colorado National Monument.
On Monday the two sent a letter to the Park Service's Intermountain regional director, John Wessels, asking him to sit down to discuss allowing a stage of the 2012 Quiznos Pro Challenge race to go through the national monument during the August cycling event's week-long competition.
An initial proposal from a group hoping to lure the bike ride to the Grand Junction area called for a three-lap loop of the race through the monument. It was turned down by Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, who cited the logistics involved, which included closing Rim Rock Drive through the park for 12 hours, feed zones, support vehicles, and overheard air support.
“I denied the permit, but I offered the option of a ceremonial lap without all the race support vehicles and aircraft, and the local committee felt they could not make that viable with the race," Superintendent Anzelmo said Tuesday.
While the local committee, which the superintendent said is planning to bid for a stage of the 2012 race, came back with a somewhat scaled-down approach, one that would entail two, instead of three, laps of the monument, she said it still would have impacts on the monument's normal operations during the busiest time of year.
While the Colorado Monument last summer did host a portion of the Denver Post Ride the Rockies bike tour, Superintendent Anzelmo pointed out that there are significant differences between a non-competitive citizens ride and a professional bike race.
“Cycling tours are not these large-scale professional races that require the amount of vehicles and support aircraft that a professional sporting event requires," she said. "Generally speaking, large-scale commercial sporting events are not compatible with national parks and the resources that we are here to protect.”
In their letter, Sen. Udall and Gov. Hickenlooper were hopeful that a solution could be worked out.
"If the monument is able to responsibly host the event while protecting its natural and cultural resources, we believe that showcasing this majestic area as part of this world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state," they wrote. "In addition, by hosting this event Colorado can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the monument as a national park - while illustrating that Coloradans can effectively balance the often competing interests of use and protection."
Superintendent Anzelmo said work was under way to schedule a meeting.
“We are continuing to evaluate the proposal and internally asking ourselves a lot of questions," she said, noting that the questions involved such issues as "How can you do this without impacting resources, how can you close the road for 12 hours in the summer?”
Back in 2009 Yosemite National Park officials fielded a similar request to allow a leg of a bike race to negotiate the Yosemite Valley early in 2010. Park officials declined the request, citing the "disruption" the event would have caused for park visitors
Here's the wording of the letter from Sen. Udall and Gov. Hickenlooper:
Mr. John Wessels
Regional Director, Intermountain Region
National Park Service
12795 Alameda Parkway
Denver, CO 80225
Dear Mr. Wessels:
We are writing to request that your office convene a meeting regarding the revised proposal submitted by the Grand Junction Quiznos Pro Challenge Local Organizing Committee (Committee) to stage a portion of the Quiznos Pro Challenge cycling race through Colorado National Monument (Monument).
We understand that the Committee's initial proposal to host the bike race at the Monument was rejected, but - based on the issues and concerns raised by Superintendent Joan Anzelmo regarding the initial draft - the Committee has since offered a revised proposal. We are requesting that you convene a meeting with representatives of the Committee and Superintendent Anzelmo to reach agreement on the proposed event.
If the Monument is able to responsibly host the event while protecting its natural and cultural resources, we believe that showcasing this majestic area as part of this world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state. In addition, by hosting this event Colorado can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the Monument as a National Park - while illustrating that Coloradans can effectively balance the often competing interests of use and protection.
We will make our staff available to participate in this meeting if needed and look forward to helping reach a resolution that is beneficial to all involved.