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No pro bike race in Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument. PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

“This bike race is neither necessary nor appropriate in the park. Superintendent Anzelmo made the right call.”

~National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite high-level political meddling, the National Park Service this week affirmed its earlier decision to maintain its policy of limiting commercial activities by denying a request by the Quiznos Pro Challenge commercial bike race to hold a stage of the race in Colorado National Monument next year.

“Federal law and National Park Service policy restrict commercial activities in national parks to those that are ‘necessary and appropriate’ to park purposes,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “This bike race is neither necessary nor appropriate in the park. Superintendent Anzelmo made the right call.”

Jarvis made the announcement after being briefed last week on the results of a meeting among race organizers, local supporters, Park Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, and NPS Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels, and following consultation with officials of the U.S. Department of the Interior in Washington.

“Closing the park to accommodate the needs of a commercial bike race goes against our management policies, would adversely impact park resources, and would deny access to the park to other visitors,” said Jarvis.

The monument does welcome more than 16,000 cyclist each year and allows non-competitive, non-commercial cycling tours such as Community Hospital’s annual Tour of the Valley.

The Quizno’s Pro Challenge organizers approached the Park Service about holding a stage in the monument. Anzelmo turned them down and subsequently considered a scaled-back version that may have resulted in less disruption and fewer environmental impacts in the form of a ceremonial lap without helicopters, small planes and race support vehicles.

In a heavy-handed attempt to manipulate natural resource management decisions for political and economic purposes, Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper sent a letter to the National Park Service asking the agency to reconsider its decision.

The race was opposed by the Coalition of National Park Retirees” Association, as well as by the National Parks Conservation Association. The two groups pointed out that the National Park Service just recently (2006) adopted new policies clearly stating that commercial events are limited to activities that have meaningful association between the park area and the event.

Furthermore, federal regulations require 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…”

The groups were concerned that a permit would have set a dangerous precedent for the national park system.

Here’s a statement from the National Parks Conservation Association, a group that doesn’t stand to gain financially and that isn’t looking for a political feather in its cap:

“We applaud the National Park Service in affirming what we believe are fundamental standards for preserving the integrity of our park system with this decision. Allowing the bike race to take place at Colorado National Monument as originally planned would have cut off the major transportation stem that goes through the park, closing the park for up to six hours and restricting visitor access to our national treasure. It is the responsibility of our National Park Service leaders to protect these places from actions that are commercial in nature and not intrinsic to the operations of the park.

“Senator Mark Udall and Governor Hickenlooper have tried to establish a compromise solution with local race organizers who have been unwilling to consider reasonable alternative proposals that protect the integrity of the park. We are hopeful that the beauty and richness of Western Colorado as a backdrop to this race and the potential economic benefits represented in the bike race proposal can be realized,  but not at the expense of Colorado National Monument.

“We applaud the decision of Superintendent Joan Anzelmo and the National Park Service. Holding a commercial event at Colorado National Monument would have set a dangerous precedent. We must draw the line at commercializing our national parks to ensure they remain protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

Colorado National Monument covers more than 20,000 acres of plateau and canyons with towering monoliths and sheer-walled red rock canyons, most of which is enjoyed by visitors driving along the historic 23-mile Rim Rock Drive. Last year, there were more than 430,000 recreational visits to the park creating an economic benefit of nearly $20 million for nearby communities.

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