Organizations Want Veto Power Over National Park Service At Colorado National Monument

There's a story in western Colorado involving Colorado National Monument that bears watching. The gist of the story is that some local community organizations are in support of redesignating the monument as a national park, but only if they can veto Park Service decisions on what uses the monument is appropriate for.

Onlookers believe that this ties in to past efforts to have a professional bike race -- the 2013 USA Pro Challenge -- course through the national monument along the 23-mile-long Rim Rock Drive. In the past, officials all the way up to the director of the National Park Service have said that would be an inappropriate use of the national monument.

Now, earlier this spring the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association passed a resolution in support of renaming the monument a national park. That resolution was similar to one adopted earlier by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as one passed by the Grand Junction Economic Partnership. The kicker is that the groups want the legislation to give community stakeholders veto power over any Park Service decisions on uses the agency finds are inappropriate for the monument...such as a professional bike race.

Whether legislation will be introduced into Congress this summer by either U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton or U.S. Sen. Mark Udall to redesignate the monument as a national park remains to be seen.

Park advocacy groups, though, are keeping an eye on this issue and are stressing that the Park Service's hands should not be tied when it comes to what is appropriate for Colorado National Monument.

At the National Parks Conservation Association, officials have said it is good for the Park Service to meet with local stakeholders to discuss the future of Colorado National Monument. But David Nimkin, senior director for NPCA's Southwest regional office, has made it clear that NPCA strongly opposes a professional bike race through the monument.

Simply put, he says, the commercialization of the national monument is out of bounds.

Also watching the issue is the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, which also opposes a professional bike race in the monument. While that group believes it is doubtful that Sen. Udall would offer legislation that would provide local stakeholders veto power over the Park Service, the Coalition nevertheless has notified him of its position on the matter. If the senator or any other congressional representative offers legislation to rename the monument as a national park for the significant natural resources and history of Colorado National Monument, the coalition will offer its official position on the matter at that time.


if they can pull it off, but the rest of us - and other NPS areas by reason of a dangerous precedent - would be the losers.

On that, we agree.

It always mystifies my as to how some people can complain loudly against government spending and in another breath, yowl because it won't happen.

So, Lee, what net expenses would the government have with a Pro Challange race? Or is that just another empty accusation - you know, like the one about me wanting entitlements. You never backed up that accusation either.

Sure, if it would make you feel better, I'll amend that to substitue "any special use" for "any commercial use..." :-) My intent is the same, and I'd object to the Ride the Rockies event if it had the same impacts in terms of closing the park to "normal activities" for visitors.

The key in my opinion is whether a special event has a clear tie to the reason the park was established. For example, there will undoubtedly be some disruption of usual visitor activities at Gettysburg this summer during events for the 150th anniversary of the battle. The same could be said for 4th of July activities at Independence NHP. Those activities are directly related to the reason the park was established in the first place. Perhaps you can think of a park established primarily to promote a professional bike race, but none come to my mind.

And, at this point, I have other things to do. Think we've milked this one dry.

How about if you provide us with a cost/benefit statement from the last race instead. We're also still waiting for proof that your "10s of thousands" numbers were not grossly inflated by the race organizers. Or would you approve of the idea that if the race were permitted, it would be allowed only if the organizers agreed to reimburse NPS for all expenses and damage that might be incurred? Want to bet that if that were proposed, the organizers would suddenly lose interest?

No matter what anyone else may try to provide, you will dance around it, twist it, and then ignore it. Not much point in wasting even more time. Might as well go try to reason with a rock in the creek outside my door.

Smile friend. It'll do you good.

How about if you provide us with a cost/benefit statement from the last race instead.

Why should I do that. I never made any claim about the cost/benefit analysis. You did. Just like you made the claim I was asking for entitlements. In neither case (and many others prior) have you backed up your claims.

If in fact the unit was projected to have a net outlay of funds, then I would be against it. But I have seen no evidence to suggest that and it wasn't an objection reported in any of the reviews that I have seen.

edit: And I do know the towns that have hosted the event before are begging (and paying) for it to come back. Obviously they view the cost/benefit as quite attractive.

And I do know the towns that have hosted the event before are begging (and paying) for it to come back. Obviously they view the cost/benefit as quite attractive.

Documentation please.

Ec, do you really believe any park – or town - could host a major special event projected to bring many times more visitors than normal to the area without incurring extra, event-related costs for both overtime and hours of regular time diverted from normal operations to plan, conduct and cleanup afterwards? Examples are EMS, law enforcement and crews for barricades, signs, etc. The costs for trash pickup and disposal alone could be substantial.

Towns try to justify spending those tax dollars because they believe the event is good for cash flow to businesses and therefore tax receipts, and is good advertising for the area. An NPS area doesn't reap those supposed financial benefits, and as pointed out in earlier comments and the information below, even that cash flow is sometimes questionable.

Here are some excerpts from an August 27, 2012, article in the Denver Post after the 2012 race.

Although crowds "surged" in the final miles of the race in the Front Range, spectator numbers elsewhere along the route were lower than expected. Race officials told organizers in Durango, Crested Butte, Aspen, Beaver Creek and Breckenridge to prepare for crowds between 10,000 to 25,000 people.

That didn't happen. Preliminary estimates by local officials put crowds of 5,000 to 6,000 in Montrose, Crested Butte, Aspen and Breckenridge. "The two centerpieces of the race — Independence Pass and Boulder's Flagstaff Mountain — also drew fewer spectators than expected."

In Durango, the city spent more than $550,000 on the event — including $340,000 in private sponsorships. That sounds like $190,000 of public money.

But, how about that extra sales tax revenue? In Breckenridge, when local organizer Lucy Kay approached the town council to ask for $150,000 in funding for the town's second hosting of the race, she warned council members to not consider the weekend's tax receipts as a return on the investment. (She was touting the longer range benefit of free advertising for the area, etc.)

Woodland Park, the biggest town between Breckenridge and Colorado Springs along the Stage 5 route, was braced for 5,000 and got 3,000, said local chamber of commerce chief Debbie Miller. "It was mostly our local people who came out," Miller said.

Makes me wonder how much extra cash those local people spent in town that day.

This event may be very appealing to cycling fans and profitable for the organizers, but it doesn't sound like such a great deal for the taxpayers.

Documentation please.

Since you havn't documented a thing, I dont feel obligated to do so, but I will do it anyway to show how empty your accusations are.

Makes me wonder how much extra cash those local people spent in town that day.

I live in Breckenridge. I speak with the Mayor, Town Council Members, business people on a regular basis. I haven't spoken with a single one them or any resident that doesn't think having the race didn't provide a positive benefit. That is why they are begging - offering money to have it again.

So all three of the people you spoke to are beggars? What do their cardboard signs say?

What about the rest of the townfolk?

At least a couple of Colorado towns have honest and sensible leadership that learned the hard way and refuse to repeat their mistake:

Still, both Durango and Boulder passed on hosting gigs for the Aug. 19-25 race next year.

Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc said it was "a business decision." Durango budgeted $560,000 for the race - including $300,000 in sponsorship support, but not including wages for 620 police and security personnel. Yet the city saw less than half of the expected crowds for the start of the weeklong, 683-mile race.

"The incremental impact, with similar costs and resources, would likely be minimal," LeBlanc said. "How many additional countries or potential visitors would we reach? We'd need a similar commitment of resources. We still have T-shirts from this year."

But in some places, there are always enough fools who can be fooled easily by people waving dollars in front of them. Ah, well. I guess that's conservative socialism at work.

The Tour of Utah (another UCI-sanctioned professional bike race) just announced last week their venue towns for the 2013 edition in August. There will be a stage finishing in Torrey - and it looks like that the stage will take UT12 all the way from the Panguitch area straight through Bryce Canyon NP, Grand Staircase-Escalante NM and up the Boulder plateau to Torrey. Another stage starts at Brian Head resort and I can imagine (and hope for) a side trip to Cedar Breaks NM on the way to Cedar City.

So in Utah this thing is happening already.

Back in the 80's the good ol' Coors Classic featured already Colorado NM's Rim Rock Drive - impressive images.

While I understand the concerns of everyone opposing the passage of the Tour of Colorado through Colorado NM - I'm not so sure for myself - I think that people do highly overestimate the impact of the event. The NM will not be closed for the day. The race will pass through the park in less then an hour. There will be road closures before and after, but not more than half a day. Which gives all other park visitors enough time to explore the park before/after the race. And in the meantime how about getting on your feet and hitting some trails in the NM? Closed road doesn't mean closed trails...

So all three of the people you spoke to are beggars?

I don't have a clue what that is suppossed to mean.

I guess that's conservative socialism at work.

Showing your ignorance once again Lee. Our Mayor is an avowed socialists, there isn't a conservative bone in his body and most the rest of council is not far behind.

And I will say again. If the cost to the NPS wasn't covered by the race organizers or sponsors, then I would be against it. I haven't seen anyone involved in the process indicate that is the case. That isn't in the list of reasons given for turning it down.

Oh and BTW, I'm still waiting for you to substantiate your claim that I have asked for entitlements. More empy claims and accusations.

I hereby give my full support to the organizations who give full support to the redesignation of CNM to CNP with the one caveat that as a part owner of the public land I am granted full veto power over these organizations who would like to be granted full veto power. I also have an additional 350 events per year planned for CNM/P that may or may not make money but are good, honest, wholesome commercial ventures that promote stuff that I like and will only require some part of the M/P to be closed but only on those 350 days and only for limited times. Events for week 1 will get us kicked off with a skateboarding race, a wild west equestrian ride, a soapbox derby, a model train show, a romance novels clubs street crawl, a Baptist scooter slolom, and an all atheist bicycle ride. This will introduce a lot more people to the M/P which necessarily means we will see even more support for the area because mass visits always guarantee awareness and awakening. With any luck they will also put some serious thought into supporting their new found treasure with full veto support so we can keep things in such perfect harmonious balance. See u at the races/demonstrations/exhibitions soon! Bring your support and veto quills!

Thanks, Scott. Nicely said :-)

Nicely said, indeed, Scott Merritt.

Thank you Scott Merritt, right on.

I dont believe this place is worthy of the upgrade. I've spent some time here, and I just feel that it is a smaller version of Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef.

Lately, it seems like a lot of places are trying to get their national wilderness lands or national monuments upgraded to National Parks, and my concern is that a lot of these lands are not worthy of the designation, and it cheapens the overall brand.

Cuyahoga National Park was the start of the cheapening of the brand in my opinion. That area is just a glorified state park, and when you compare it to the grandeur of a place like the Smokies, or Glacier, or the Grand Canyon it is not even on the same level in terms of the amount of wilderness, and the amount of protected natural features. I feel that Colorado National Monument should stay a national monument. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes it has some flora and fauna biodiversity that is typical of the region. BUt it is not vast enough or significant enough to stand up there in the National Park realm.


The Pro Challenge is a professional race with a limit as to who can enter (professional bicyclists).

The Ride the Rockies Tour is not professional and is not a race and has no limit as to who can enter (entry is by lottery to anyone, not just professional cyclists).

So, you are comparing apples to oranges, here.

Commercialism has nothing to do with the decision to permit one and not the other. The scope of each event is completely different; one is open to the public and for pleasure, the other is closed to the public and for profit.

They call that John Q disease in these parts.

ec, you don't have to specifically ask for an entitlement. Your very attitude demonstrates that you don't ask. You demand.

If you don't understand my comment, read yours again.

And our current mayor is a Republican who saw the light after his predecessor caved in to the race pushers. (Who may not be much different than other kinds of pushers.)

You say you would be against the race if you saw or heard from anyone who will acknowledge cost to the NPS. Perhaps if you'd open your eyes or ears you'd see and hear what the rest of are witnesssing.

It struck me last night that this entire debate has devolved into an excellent analogy for what's happening in Congress right now. Some people who are trying to find sensible solutions to vexing problems are being outshouted by a few very noisy ones who spend their time obfuscating, delaying, twisting, dodging and trying to prevent anything productive or that might benefit more than a few powerfully wealthy organizations or individuals who insist on gaining short term profit over long term policies that may prevent destruction of good things.

With all due respect, I acknowledge that no matter how wrong you may be, you will never be able to see the light because you will continue -- for whatever reason -- to cover your eyes and ears. All I can do is continue to hope that there will be enough Americans who will recognize the fallacy of that approach and continue to fight against it. They once handed one heck of a surprise to a fella named Mitt because he tried the same thing.

one is open to the public and for pleasure, the other is closed to the public and for profit.

So what? Being a spectator is free to either. Oh and BTW - there is a limit on the # of Ride the Rockies riders. Not to mention they pay $495 to ride, unless you want the special package at $2,500.

The whole point of federally designated land is to preserve it for the use and enjoyment of all Americans. Caving to local interests is intrisically at odds with that goal.

"BTW,where you here crying when parts of Yellowstone was shut down so the Obama family could visit? Or are political purposes OK - (as long as they are left leaning)?"

That's called national security. And I think it's sad that the president of the United States -- ANY president of the U.S. -- cannot go to a national park or for that matter, the local Dunkin Donuts, without an armed guard. But that's how it's been for a long time, for Republicans and Democrats alike.

Back to the subject: I think national parks would be better off by NOT allowing special events that use public lands, curtail normal visitors and park activities, whether they are for profit or not for profit. Would the park lose some possible income? Who knows. Would surrounding communities lose some potential business. Again, who knows. But at least the rule would be clear and there would not be room for someone's subjective judgement about what is "appropriate" or "deserving."

But at least the rule would be clear and there would not be room for someone's subjective judgement about what is "appropriate" or "deserving."

But that rule itself reflects subjective judgement. But that's OK if its YOUR selective judgement right?

As to the President visiting the park. To the best of my knowledge he had never been to Yellowstone before and I am guessing he is unlikely to go again. In fact that may be true for any major Park that involves more than a drive through. He will be President for 8 years. He has had/will have 70+ years when he isn't President to visit. Presidential visits to Parks are pure political grandstanding, especially by those that have done nothing for them, and are even less appropriate than commercial activities.

"As the first family strolled the boardwalk around Old Faithful, Duffy and Superintendent Lewis chatted with the President about other topics such as Obama’s visit to Yellowstone with his mother and grandmother when he was eleven years old..."

Gee that sure verifies his long love for the Parks.

EC, your partisanship is showing. My guess is the president -- any president -- has more on his plate to deal with these days than traveling to and fawning over the parks.


No doubt I am partisan but not on this issue. The point is that the President - any president- has plenty of opportunities to visit the Park when he is not President and when it won't result in major sections of the Park being closed. Any such visit, expecially by one who has otherwise shown no interest in the Park, is pure political grandstanding - no matter the party. Such grandstanding which blocks access is far more annoying to me than commercial activities that may draw thousands of extra visitors.

Oh, and being dragged to a Park by your grandmother at age 11 as part of a tour of the west and never returning doesn't count as "interest".

Oh, for pete's sake, partisan. On ALL issues.

When he visited Yellowstone he was then chastised by partisans of your ilk for how few parks he had visited as President. That's the definition of partisan - blame him for a sunny day, blame him for a rainy day.

And you were there forty years ago to see him "dragged", or is that again just your partisan phrasing. I didn't make it to Yellowstone until I was in my 40's for my first visit. Doesn't mean I wasn't interested, just means I hadn't been able to get there until then.

Life is a matter of what color sunglasses you wear, and everything you say here is through your own partisan prism.

I was assigned to two presidential visits: President Nixon to Grand Teton and President Carter, to Yellowstone and the Tetons. My sense of it was that people were thrilled to see their Presidents in a national park and did not mind the inconvenience of slower traffic and swarms of Secret Service personnel and lots of rangers. I remember President Carter watching Old Faithful along with the crowds of people that normally congregate for an eruption. He shook a lot of hands. The security just is a sign of the times.


So Rick, did your grandma take yoy there when you where 40? As I have said, no matter the party, Presidents should stay out of NP unless they have done something Park worthy to be there.

Rick, I agree. My first encounter with a President visiting a Park was President Kennedy coming to Yosemite in the early 1960's. I was on the trail crew and we were assigned clearing all the trails near the Ahwahnee Hotel. Everyone was very excited. Like yourself, I have been involved in many high level VIP visits to Parks, President Nixon's wife Pat, at Old Faithful (we all, including the visitors, were impressed with her personal kindness and dignity), President Nixon at Fort Point , the Queen of England and her husband in Yosemite, he was a great guy, an avid bird watcher, he loved the wildness of the park. Like many of you I could go on and on about this, but my own experience was that both the majority of employees and visitors found these visits, exciting and worthwhile. To see our top leaders, or that matter, top world leaders, taking an interest in our nations parks and wild places is extremely positive and usually ends in something good happening. I can remember fairly recently Laura Bush, President Bush's spouse, coming to Yosemite and hiking the High Sierra Loop Trail for 5 days, 50 miles. One ranger was assigned, many of you know her, Laurel Munson Boyers. Everyone enjoyed Laura Bush's trip, it inspired all of us to know that she cared deeply about parks and wilderness areas and took that message back to Washington D.C.

Laura did it right. She did it on her own dime, when she was no longer First Lady, quietly, and didn't shut down the park in the process.

You're not exactly right, EC, as Mrs. Bush visited national parks about once a year during her husband's terms, and brought the Secret Service and motorcades along with her. That said, she was/is a very vocal supporter of the national parks. Too bad she stepped down from the National Park Foundation when her husband left office, though that was probably the norm.

You are correct Kurt, Laura Bush did the trip while her husband was in office. The usual precautions were taken. I think Rick Smiths point is well taken, most of the employees and visitors support seeing their top leaders and or spouses in our parks and other lands. It is usually quite positive and results in increased support for these public treasures.

I stand corrected re Laura. Nevertheless, I still think Presidents should go on their own time and dime and that shutting a Park for dignitaries is less appropriate than opening them for commercial activities.

No parks were "shut" for any presidential visit.

No one who is mandated Secret Service protection has the option to do anything totally "on their own dime". Even if they pay their own airfare to a photo-op clearing their own brush in Crawford, Texas, the security infrastructure is immense and continues. If Laura was to go back to a park today she would still have that in force.

Lee, so people had free reign of Yelowstone while O'bama was there?


who paid for Obama's transportation? Who paid for his food and hotels? Who paid his admission fee? Those are the expenses I am referring to. I dare guess more people were inconvenienced by his visit than would be by a bike race in CNMT.

Instead of arguing over potential impacts, we could have the race done once, and then measure whether it was a good or a bad thing for the park. It's not like having the race once will destroy the park.

It sure seems like the race impacts are overblown just to create a bit of FUD. I get the impression that race opponents are afraid that if the race happens, we may find out that there is no negative impact.

So in Utah it is really happening:

"Stage 2 will meander through terrain sculpted by 325 million years of geologic activity, and will be the first professional bicycle stage race to visit a national park, as it passes through portions of Bryce Canyon. From the day’s start in Panguitch, Garfield County seat, the route joins State Route 12, one of America’s most unique and spectacular highways, known as the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. ... The race finishes in Torrey, in the shadow of Capitol Reef National Park and the geologic wonder known as the Waterpocket Fold. If you can watch only one stage of the 2013 Tour of Utah, this is the one."

This will be a huge promotion opportunity for southern Utah.

But, Gila, the race will NOT enter the main portion of Bryce Canyon National Park itself. The race will follow Highway 12 past the turnoff to the park's entrance. The portion of Bryce Canyon that it will traverse is within the park, but is a portion that has no significant visitor use. The route actually passes about five or six miles north of the park's entrance. Check the map included in your link. This is the part of the park over which scenic flights are permitted because they will not disturb visitors. The pink cliffs actually extend several miles further north than the park's northern boundary.

The road in Bryce is one way with a dead end. If they were to race through the park, they'd have to turn around at the end and retrace their route. This race will not cause the kind of distruption to Bryce that the race at Colorado would certainly produce. Nor will it cause the kind of disruption that has caused four or five Utah cities to decline repeat performances of the race due to the volumes of complaints from their residents following races in Ogden, Springville, Payson and Provo. As the new mayor of Ogden said, "Benefits from the race were realized by only a very small number of our businesses. Too many others suffered serious impacts instead. Taxes resulting from the race were eclipsed by public expenses in support of the race." The city council voted against another race permit, with only one council member voting in favor.

I've been to Bryce Canyon myself, I know the park layout pretty well. ;)

And while the road through Colorado NM is not a main through-route, UT12 in Bryce Canyon is. So my guess is that it should be much easier to close down a tourist-only route like Rim Rock road instead of a main road artery like UT12.

Ut 12 is hardly a main road -- except in summer when it's full of tourists. Have you been to Colorado NM?

except in summer when it's full of tourists

Uh, you mean like when they are going to run the race?

Yup, so there will probably be a whole lot of ticked off tourists along the way.

Gila--Of course, it would be easier, but is it appropriate to close down the access road to a national park service area for a professional sporting event that benefits a for-profit organization? I, for one, don't think so.


I must agree Rick, it is my opinion that outside commercial events in the National Parks should not occur. There maybe some areas in the NPS system where such activities are appropriate, for example. I do not know if they still hold boat races at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Also in some of our urban recreational areas such as Golden Gate NRA, I believe some outside commercial events are authorized. I can tell you based on my own 50 years plus of experience working in a large western park, that the park employees already have their hands full, once started, there will be no end to applications to hold these type of events. These 59 National Parks have a huge legal responsibility to care for the natural and cultural resources there in, they are nature centers, first and foremost, they cannot be something for everybody on the recreational and commercial scale of activities, not that those activities are inherently bad, and still meet the legislated criteria established for them.

The Utah race route follows a numbered state highway, and it's quite possible the park does not have jurisdiction over that road, and therefore did not have the ability to say "yea or nay" about the event. A quick look at the map for Colorado NM suggests that the Rim Rock Drive is a park road, not a state highway.

Given the fact that UT 12 is the only access to and from the park, and this leg of the race is projected to take nearly 6 hours, it is inevitable there will be considerable inconvenience to visitors who want to visit Bryce Canyon (and other destinations served by this road, such as Kodachrome Basin State Park) the day of this race. It's also inevitable that some people planning to visit the park on this day will be unaware of the resulting traffic delays until they're caught up in the mess.

How many visitors have already made plans for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Bryce Canyon and other southern Utah parks, without realizing this event is taking place? No way to tell, but given the heavy visitation to the park in August, I'd bet quite a few.

It's unfortunate the siren song of some extra income for a few business owners will ruin the day for a lot of people who simply wanted to enjoy a drive on what the race organizers call "one of America’s most unique and spectacular highways." Yes, ec, I understand bike fans will love it.