National Park Service Director Refuses Request To Run Professional Bike Race Through Colorado National Monument

National Park Service Director John Jarvis has endorsed the decision by the Colorado National Monument superintendent not to allow a professional bike race course through the monument in August 2012. NPS photo.

Holding that a professional bike race is neither "necessary nor appropriate" for a national park, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis has endorsed a decision by the Colorado National Monument superintendent not to open the monument to such an event in August 2012.

The decision Monday afternoon came after Mr. Jarvis consulted with not only Superintendent Joan Anzelmo and Intermountain Regional Director John Wessels, who met with race organizers and supporters last Friday, but also Interior Department officials 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 Mr. Jarvis. “Federal law and NPS policy restrict commercial activities in national parks to those that are ‘necessary and appropriate’ to park purposes. This bike race is neither necessary nor appropriate in the park. Superintendent Anzelmo made the right call.”

Cycling is not entirely absent from the national monument, which is located in the scenic redrock landscape of western Colorado. More than 16,000 cyclists a year pedal through it, and the monument provides special-use permits for non-competitive, non-commercial cycling tours, such as Community Hospital’s annual Tour of the Valley.

The 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.

With hopes of boosting the local economy and raising the profile of the monument, backers of the Quiznos Pro Challenge had wanted to run a stage of the cross-Colorado bike race through the monument during its 2012 edition. They had succeeded in obtaining the backing of U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper had lobbied Regional Director Wessels to permit the race.

Opposing the event were both the National Parks Conservation Association and the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees. The Traveler also had taken a stance against the race.

While the Colorado Monument last summer did host a portion of the Denver Post Ride the Rockies bike tour, Superintendent Anzelmo had pointed out that there are significant differences between a non-competitive citizens ride and a professional bike race.

“Cycling tours are not these large-scale professional races that require the amount of vehicles and support aircraft that a professional sporting event requires," she said earlier this month. "Generally speaking, large-scale commercial sporting events are not compatible with national parks and the resources that we are here to protect.”

In their letter, Sen. Udall and Gov. Hickenlooper said the bike race possibly could help efforts to have the monument redesignated as a "national park."

"If the monument is able to responsibly host the event while protecting its natural and cultural resources, we believe that showcasing this majestic area as part of this world-class cycling event will bring beneficial commerce and attention to this important part of the state," they wrote. "In addition, by hosting this event Colorado can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the monument as a national park - while illustrating that Coloradans can effectively balance the often competing interests of use and protection."