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