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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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I hope the Coalition and Association get a better response from Senator Udall and Governor Hickenlooper than I did after sending my emails. The response I received was......uh, I hear crickets chirping?

I don't have a big problem with not allowing the race to roll through the monument, and for the record I have ridden there. But if the permit denial is sustained, I would hope that for all time any other application for any other event will be similarly banned - regardless its perceived benefits to whomever. This whole situation is yet another case of so-called collectivized property rights enforced by a very small group of people (park officials), verses individual rights; utterly incompatible..., and always destined for conflict and rife with hypocisy.

In a practicle sense I simply see very little actual downside to this particular event being allowed, either presently or down the road (no pun intended). Moreover, the National Mounument could take this as an opportunty to allow for events such as this to take place in the future; have a bidding process implemented with a restricted number of open dates for such events. Moreover, when allowing an event to go through the park (bike rides, pro races, running events) simply enforce the rules for proper behavior, control spectator access, and charge the organizers accordingly.. There IS a way to make this very workable for both sides, and still maintain the asthetic and physical integrity of the park.

The fact that the articles and comments by park officials (and the special interest group of retirees) do not point out any specific issues is telling. I would hope that they could provide specifics as to what, exactly, would be physically damaged by having a peloton of professional bike racers, and the attendent spectators and support vehicles, roll through the park for a few hours that would be measurably different than the normal traffic of cars, motor homes, campers, and individual bike riders and runners streaming through the park on any other day. What appears to be the real issue here is the mere fact that these bike racers are professionals, earning a living riding their bikes, competing in an event sponsored by a for-profit entity. How dare they set foot in a national park! We can't have that, that would be celebrating free-market capitalism...

In other words, if any other entity (non-profit organizations, school groups, religious groups, fund raisers of ANY type, e.g. cancer fund raising, MS fund raising, Bike Tours, etc.) desires to use the park to promote their "narrowly-focused" agenda they too should be banned/disallowed a permit. And, as long as the park service is utterly and totally consistent, making no exceptions for any other group, then, as I stated at the outset, I don't have a big problem with the denial of a permit..

Again - I personally think effective closing off a national monument for 12 hours is untenable. However, I'm not sure how well the enforcement is on races run by for-profit enterprises with more than just nominal prize money. I've previously mentioned the (IMG run) Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, where the footrace portion winds its way through several parts of Golden Gate NRA and includes over 1500 participants.

Clearly, this event IS tenable. The park closes for full days rather frequently due to mother nature demanding full and unfettered access.. So, let's refrain from such silly obfuscations.

The only thing standing in its way is the ant-racing, anti-access by a professional peloton, mentality of those who are opposed. Face it, they simply don't like the idea and are looking towards their regulations rule-book for any and all possible ways to deny the race access to the park - pure and simple.

There is simply no rational, physically conflicted, reason why such an event could not take place. Closing down the park, even if it were for half a day, is not something inherently "untenable." So, let's take that off the table here and now and deal with the real issue - it's political and ideological.

What would be "untenable" would be two events running in opposite directions, on the same road..

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.

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


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..

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????

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