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Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, National Parks Conservation Association Oppose Bike Race At Colorado National Monument


Both the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees and the National Parks Conservation Association are encouraging the National Park Service to remain adamant that Colorado National Monument is not an appropriate venue for a professional bike race. NPS photos.

Editor's note: Pressure continues to be exerted on the National Park Service to allow a professional bike race to run a stage through Colorado National Monument in August of 2012. As the Traveler has pointed out, such a commercial activity, one that would close the monument to the general public for at least 12 hours, is inappropriate in the monument. Park Service officials soon will sit down with race proponents to discuss their proposal. Both the Coalition of National Park Service retirees and the National Parks Conservation Association, hoping the Park Service holds the line against this race, made clear their rationale in the following comments.

Rick Smith, chair of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees' Executive Council

The 780 members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees are very disappointed that a small, narrowly-focused group of powerful people in Grand Junction are trying to force a commercial pro bike race on Colorado National Monument. We are further disappointed that this same group has leveraged its political muscle with U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to force the bike race into the discussions about a national park designation for Colorado National Monument. We certainly understand the need to discuss both, but they should not be connected.

It strikes us as especially odd that Senator Udall, the chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee and member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, would even suggest that a modern-day mega sporting event, a commercial bike race, should take place inside a national monument, contrary to existing federal law and policy. If the race is forced on Colorado National Monument, it will be precedent-setting for every single one of the 394 units of the National Park System. In times of such harsh budget constraints, how can National Park Service staffs be expected to devote their limited time to helping a commercial venture gobble up endless time and federal taxpayer resources? 

The National Park Service Management Policies, adopted in 2006 after national public involvement and 45,000 public comments, clearly state that a special event may be permitted “when there is a meaningful association between the park area and the event” and “when the event will contribute to visitor understanding of the park area.”  The Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race fails both of these criteria.  Moreover, Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations that governs what occurs in all areas of the National Park System requires that the Park Service deny permits for events that are “conducted primarily for the material or financial benefit of a for-profit entity; or awards participants an appearance fee or prizes of more than nominal value…” 

When I read the Quiznos Pro Challenge tag line on their website -- “60 miles an hour on one inch of rubber” -- it is apparent what the pro race is looking for: maximum speed and thrill. All understandable for a commercial professional mega sporting event that Quiznos is trying to host throughout Colorado. But it is not appropriate to take place in a national monument or a national park.

Colorado National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo is simply implementing regulations and policy in denying the permit for a stage of the race to take place in the monument.   She has graciously offered the monument for a ceremonial lap by the racers without the attendant helicopters, small airplanes, and race support vehicles that are part of the pro-race.  I hope the race organizers accept her offer and end their attempt to hold a stage of the race in the monument.

David Nimkin, NPCA Southwest Regional Director

Dear Senator Udall and Governor Hickenlooper:

I am the Southwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association ( NPCA), well known to Senator Udall but perhaps not quite so well known to Governor Hickenlooper. For over 90 years, NPCA, a national, non-profit organization with over 325,000 members across the country, has been the leading voice for the protection of our national parks. For the past few weeks we have been reviewing the communication between the National Park Service and the organizers of the Quiznos Pro Challenge Bike Race proposed for Colorado National Monument.

Your recent communication to National Park Service Intermountain Regional Director, John Wessels, to convene a meeting to forge a compromise position would seem appropriate were it not for the fact that the Park Service should not compromise their position on this issue. Their responsibility and authority is clear and their offer of an alternative for a ceremonial event appears to be an appropriate compromise.

We believe that the leadership of the Park Service (both Superintendent Anzelmo and Regional Director Wessels) has carefully and thoughtfully reviewed the request to host a high profile bike race at the monument and based upon their own national management policies that were reviewed, revised and adopted in 2006 and Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

Superintendent Anzelmo determined appropriately that the nature of the proposed bike race is clearly not appropriate or authorized under the stipulations of both park management policies. Superintendent Anzelmo proposed an alternative option that would enable modest use of the park without compromising the fundamental and intrinsic values she as a park manager is obligated to protect.

A great debate about how our national parks are to be managed was waged just a few short years ago. The NPS Management Policies reaffirm the special place and significance we hold for our national parks. They are not places that can be sold, rented or commercialized. They are to be protected and valued so their most intrinsic values can be sustained for the future enjoyment of our grandchildren.

Perhaps the greatest threat to our parks is the apparent modest activities that individually appear quite benign but in the aggregate lead to fundamental impacts that are immutable. One of these modest, small, time centered incursions is the commercialization of our parks. Other issues that the superintendent identified in her communication to the race organizers clearly demonstrates the other impacts she is obligated to defend against.

Although race organizers' proposal might seem a modest request, one exception here leads to another there. In fact, Superintendent Anzelmo cited a similar request by the same bike racer organizer that was denied by the leadership at Yosemite National Park only last year. That decision was based upon principle as this one has been. We strongly support the National Park Service's position on this matter and encourage you to honor and support their honest and sincere efforts to accommodate the bike race organizers within the scope of their responsibilities and authority.

We also want to complement Senator Udall for his efforts to renew consideration of national park status for Colorado National Monument. While we will support the outcome of any additional study and analysis, it is important to note that whether a national monument or national park, the responsibilities of the National Park Service to protect their resources are the same. We would caution conflation of the bike race decision with any continued consideration of national park status for the monument.

Colorado National Monument is a treasured landscape. In its centennial year, we should honor the vision of those who worked to protect it by sustaining its enduring special qualities. It is the special nature of this magnificent place - protected - that will continue to attract visitors from across the country and the world to the West Slope of Colorado and continue to be a place of enjoyment for local residents.

To voice your opinions, here are the requisite addresses:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels
National Park Service
12795 W. Alameda Parkway
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

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Can I do that ?

Great discussion and so dag gone respectfull it almost makes you sick. Didn't think there were any people like that left. Got to go to that place and see those folks for my self.

This is an interesting debate to say the least. I would hope it could remain respectful. Every person is entitled to their opinion and individually each will see it through their own lens of personal interest. There are some facts that don't seem to be making it in the dialogue. The old bike race, the Coors Classic happened in the 1980s. It drew around just 500 spectators at the height of its popularity and at a time when regular visitors were less numerous than they are today. As I read the blogs and see news reports, according the park manager the policies have changed since the times of the Coors Classic race. The promoters of the new race claim that there will be 30,000 to 50,000 spectators. Hard to imagine how a national park area accommodates those numbers without great impact to the land, wildlife and the public. Harder yet to imagine what the race promoters suggest in terms of spectators will come even close to that. This is the first year of the brand new race, the Quiznos Pro Challenge, and it coming to Colorado this summer. Who knows how it will play out. By 2012, the year the Grand Junction locals want the race so badly, it might already be in the history books for lack of enough sponsorships in tough economic times. Just as the Coors Classic dissolved for lack of financial support as well as several other American pro bike races.
As a Coloradan, I have been following this debate closely for months and think it is simply ludicrous to mix up the discussion about national park designation for Colorado National Monument with all the Quiznos race hoopla -because they are unrelated topics. One is pure hoopla and one is about recognizing the significance of the resources at Colorado National Monument and elevating their preservation as a national park.

So how would you feel if the race were run through other parts of the Grand Valley area but didn't go through the Monument? There are some other beautiful areas around the valley, like the Grand Mesa and wine country - all great for cycling. Plus the park has offered a victory lap. Does it have to be full race over the Monument or all bets are off? Let's face it, there are park rules that were put in place for a reason and if anyone doesn't like the decision from the NPS, they need to deal with the laws/rules first.

Yes, the local area could use an economic shot in the arm - no one argues that. But is there a way to get that and allow some reasonable compromise? Economically, Grand Junction can't hold a candle to any of the other communities that have said yes to the race. And there is a legitimate question of what it costs the city to support it. GJ has been hit pretty hard and the city is hard pressed to balance the budget. Is it able to provide all the support and deal with the expense this race will impose on it? What exactly are those demands? What will it cost the city and taxpayers to bring this race to town and can we afford it? Let's step aside from the Monument question and look at this race in terms of both sides of the balance sheet - not only what the local area might get, but also what it must pay. I'm skeptical of what economic value it will bring vis-a-vis what it will cost a town that, frankly, isn't able to fund things far more important than a bike race.

If proper, reasonable, restrictions are placed upon the race to assuage legitimate concerns, this could be a great event for your area that would promote the park without undue damage. It would highlight the beauty of the area while showcasing the grace, power, and ability of the professional athletes as they deal with it.. The juxtaposition would be wonderful.

I have seen nothing in any press release, or news report, that even remotely suggests that Quiznos (or anyone else) would be buying any rights to the monument park, or the roads through it, in any way, shape, or form. It isn't as if the permit would be granted for time immemorial – it’s a one day deal. If it turns out after reviewing the event in retrospect that it was not worth it for legitimate reasons, then never again. And the park service would be far better positioned to deny it, and events like it, in the future. On the other hand, you just might discover that it was a fabulous event.

So, I say, put the ownness where it needs to be: on the race organization.. But don't assume that everyone associated with the event, and all of the spectators and cycling fans, are immature, rude, property wrecking nincompoops who do not value the natural beauty of the park! Your self-righteous comment about "those who truly love the monument" presupposes that others do not value it to the same extent you do. That is a bizarre, relativistic, subjective assertion that has zero means of being demonstrated. Under such a myopic worldview you could argue the moon ought not be explored because those who “truly love the way it looks” might be offended to know a human has set foot upon its pristine surface... Good grief.

The question here ought not be 'why should the race be allowed,' but rather 'why not?' The stewards of the park must answer this in a coherent and justified way based on reason and rationality – not subjective rhetoric. Seems all I have heard so far is the citing of non-specific subjective rules, interpreted to make it sound like a professional peloton rolling through the park would in fact violate such provisions and in one single day ruin it for a millennia. I for one am not buying it – someone needs to demonstrate this as fact, rather than an unsubstantiated bad dream..

As to the number of unruly spectators potentially spread across the 23 miles of road, and any potential damage that might be done, this is pure speculation and fear mongering. Could there be damage? Could someone get injured? Of course. For example, in the Tour de France you see the mess of people who camp out on the passes for a couple days who are inebriated and unruly - clearly not what you want in your park I would suspect! That is a legitimate concern, but the park can prevent such concerns by simply banning overnight camping along the road (which I assume is already the case), and fully enforcing the rules and laws they currently have, and to the extent there are additional costs by park personnel in that regard the race ought to rightfully bear them. Last time I was in the park, I saw a lot of rocks… it’s pretty sturdy, albeit beautiful, stuff! You could allow spectating on the climb in, and in safe areas on the descent out – it’s not that complicated.

Your concern on the liability front is somewhat legitimate, but can be rectified by contractual insurance agreements.. The mere fact that the potential exists doesn't create the reality. If the park or the race were found to actually be negligent, and someone was injured because of that negligence, then insurance that is already in place (or could be procured) would come into play. Taxpayers have likely already paid for such insurance, but the bottom line would be to discuss it with the insurers of record for the Park AND the race organization. Again, this is an issue that reasonable people can come to an agreement over, but it ought not be something that pops up as a potential problem and therefore a deal breaker..

Even if it is a realistic concern (which I am personally doubtful about) it could be solved by either having viewing areas as a condition of access by the race, or simply not allowing spectators on particularly troublesome sections (inherently dangerous).. and make it clear that the race organizers would bear their share costs to police control over those areas.. I have ridden that road, and it seems to me that there are plenty of excellent viewing areas to accommodate fans who would/could make the trip up the hill.. Seems to me you can have it both ways here, you just need to start with the idea that it COULD work, instead of assuming it cannot.. Or, for some ideological reason, ought not. To the extent there are law breakers who see fit to act badly, they would be subject to whatever the law proscribes. Those are exceptions, and not the rule - we ought not engage in crafting restrictions on people's liberty simply because of a few nutjobs.

Next, I do have a sense of costs associated with an event running through a community. But all you seem to focus on are possible problems, and supposed exorbitant costs (that may not even be issues at all), and yet you cannot apparently even imagine any benefits.. That's not being very fair-minded, or objective. If you're concerns are valid, then why would Denver, Colorado Springs, Vail, Aspen, Steamboat, and Crested Butte be all fired up to allow it? And, by the way, why is Fort Collins and a few other front range communities very disappointed that their towns were not selected? Well, the answer is that they understand there are benefits that outweigh the costs.. An event like this is a way to showcase the Grand Junction / Fruita area, support a grand cycling event, and drive some additional tourist revenue your way. Your local businesses have a great opportunity to make some money, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with making money!

Frankly I think you really need to rethink your premise.. and look at this as an opportunity to bring new faces and attention to your neck of the woods. Otherwise, just raise your finger to everyone passing on I70 and put up a sign that says "look but don't touch, and please keep a safe distance from our town."

does anyone remember the Coors classic???? it was held on the monument every year and was great to see and to participate in. The Colorado Nation Monument has been going through changes in the last year, some good some bad. I live in GJ and visit the monument several times a week and it seems to me that that management wants it to be turned into a National Park so badly that they will go the any extreme to receive that status including closing down the road completely 3 months out of the year for the first time ever so if it's closed for another 12 hours who cares!!! Not to mention all the money that Grand Junction could possible make if the event was held in the monument. My family helped build the first road up and over and I use that route frequently to access Glade Park today and It's just ridiculous the laws that have been implemented over the last several years and the trail closures is really sad and now they want to stop cycles from riding over it. what's next??? full closure and call it wilderness area????

The thing I fear most in allowing this race to proceed IS the fact that it is commercial rather than charitable. Once we open the doors of our protected resources to "commercial" and "profit" , the manifest destiny mentality so prevalent in America will ensure a plethora of requests for more frequent and ever more profitable use, and before we know it the parks, too can have oil rigs just like BLM or USFS lands - or geothermal exploitation - or big game hunting - and on and on. We have public lands which are specifically set aside in which commercial and resource use are to be balanced - hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of acres of multiple use public lands. But not our national parks - please spare something! I just returned home from a trip to Florida, and I can assure you if it weren't for Everglades, the ENTIRE south half of that peninsula would be Miami - what a nice monument to free market capitalism that would be, eh? The rules developed around the use of our treasured national parks were thankfully written with the RESOURCE in mind - not people and not commerce. My hope is that today's policy makers will adhere to the wisdom of those who preceded them and keep it that way..

But don't you want to see Kevin Costner swerve dangerously close to the edge of the road just once more?


Sorry, but I have to disagree with your comments for several reasons. First, the NPS regulations clearly specify that this event is totally inconsistent with the mission to protect and preserve our national parks and monuments for generations to come. You may not like the rules and regulations set forth by NPS policies but they exist for a very important reason - to protect these irreplaceable assets and avoid selling out our treasured lands to the highest bidders for their own personal gain.

Second, the potential damage and liability associated with a race such as this is NOT insignificant. The Local Organizing Committee proposal suggests that the race could be attended by as many as 30,000 people (which, frankly, I question). But even if it's half that number, having that many people lining the roadways of the historic Rim Rock Road will inevitably cause damage and create a potential hazard. If someone fell from a cliff while watching the race, guess who carries the liability? Not the race organizers - the National Park Service, i.e., taxpayers are on the hook.

Third, closing the monument for twelve hours IS untenable at the height of the visitor season. I live just below the monument and have volunteered in the visitor center for several years now and I don't know where you get your information that "the park closes for full days rather frequently." This is patently false. While a portion of Rim Rock Road was closed for a few months this winter to avoid spending the money to have it plowed (in a time when government funding of our parks is taking a substantial hit), the monument was NOT closed during this time. In fact, I can't think of a time when the park has been "closed" so I suggest you consider your own words of advice and "refrain from such silly obfuscations."

Fourth, have you noticed how little media coverage and dialogue there has been about the demands this race will place on the local community and how the city of Grand Junction can ill afford it? Probably not, since one of the members of the LOC is the editor in chief of our local paper. Did you read last year how the City turned this same race down because there was not enough money to support the demands it places on the local community to support it? Did you consider the cost of additional police protection and other services that will be required? Did you know that other roads outside of the monument will need to be closed to regular traffic to accommodate the race? Did you know this race is scheduled to take place during the first week of the 2012 fall school year? Did you know that local hotels are expected to provide hundreds of rooms free of charge to the racers and their entourage? And free meals? The burden this race places on our local community seems a bit out of proportion to the benefits it might bring - whether you're a fan of pro bike racing or not.

Those of us who truly love the monument are baffled by the "because we want it!" arguments and mentality of those who are adamant that this race take place in the monument no matter what, regardless of cost or impact. Since government rules and regulations don't seem to mean anything to these folks, maybe digging a little deeper beneath the surface to better understand all the other issues this race presents to the local community might help illuminate the situation.

One of the saddest things about this debate is that it detracts from our ability to celebrate the monument's centennial year - a time that should be filled with joy and pride that we have such a beautiful, precious asset in our backyard, an asset that deserves to be protected from those who would prefer to reap short-term gains in a way that is inconsistent with the National Park Service mission.

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