DENVER – Citing conflicts with federal regulations and agency management policies, the National Park Service (NPS) has declined to issue a permit to hold a stage of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge bicycle race next year in Colorado National Monument in western Colorado.
In a letter to the Grand Junction Local Organizing Committee (LOC), NPS Intermountain Region (IMR) Director John Wessels and Colorado National Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert said that after careful review of the committee’s request, the National Park Service cannot issue the permit because staging the race conflicts with NPS Management Policies and the Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.50).
The letter referred to the NPS Organic Act – the law that created the National Park Service in 1916. The Organic Act does not allow activities that would impair park resources or interfere with enjoyment of the park by future generations. It also notes that NPS Management Policies set standards to ensure compliance with that law, and that the Code of Federal Regulations “likewise imposes requirements that park superintendents must consider in approving special event requests.”
The organizing committee submitted its request for the 2013 race on June 17 of this year. The LOC had applied twice before in late 2010 and early 2011 for permission to host a stage of the 2012 race event through the monument. The previous superintendent denied a permit for the race, citing unacceptable effects on park resources and park visitors and noting conflicts with federal regulations and NPS Management Policies.
Today’s letter to the LOC cites three principal reasons for denying the 2013 bike race request:
- Under the management policies and 36 CFR 2.50, NPS superintendents may only allow events that have a “meaningful association” with a park or monument and foster greater visitor understanding of it. “A professional bicycle race will draw spectators and competitors whose presence at the monument stems from a desire to view or participate in an athletic contest, not primarily to experience the monument or its values,” the letter states.
- Conducting the race through the monument along narrow, winding Rim Rock Drive poses a conflict with other park visitors and is therefore contrary to 36 CFR 2.50. Closing the 4-mile public right-of-way from the DS Road (Glade Park turnoff) to the east entrance also would inconvenience and interfere with park visitors as well as Glade Park residents. “Moreover, the park’s natural tranquility will be impaired by the activities necessary to support the race,” the letter adds.
- NPS Management Policy 8.6.2 prohibits approval of for-profit events that award participants with more than nominal prizes or appearance fees.
In addition, the letter addresses a 1986 federal court decision regarding public right-of-way on a 4-mile segment of Rim Rock Drive (east hill). In its request for a race permit, the LOC said that decision in Wilkenson v. Dept. of the Interior, 634 F. Supp. 1265, 1280-81 (D. Colo. 1986) prevents the NPS from barring non-recreational use of Rim Rock Drive. In the reply letter, Wessels and Eckert assert that “a complete closure of the road segment to accommodate a professional bike race is inconsistent” with that court ruling.
Finally, the letter notes that a permit denial similar to that at Colorado National Monument was made by Yosemite National Park when organizers of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California professional bike race sought to hold the race’s ceremonial opening stage in the park.
“That decision, like ours, was made in consultation with the Washington office of the National Park Service,” Wessels and Eckert wrote to the LOC. The monument is a popular destination for recreational cycling, scenic driving, hiking, rock climbing, picnicking, birding, camping, photography, educational fieldtrips, and wildlife viewing. Superintendent Eckert said that she would be happy to consider other types of assistance with events and activities that are appropriate for Colorado National Monument.
Rick Frost, Intermountain Region, 303-378-0255, email@example.com
Michelle Wheatley, Colorado National Monument, 970-858-3617, ext.363