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.

Comments

Jim, consider another fact. Many -- probably even most -- of those who will be driving Hwy 12 that day will be Europeans here on what is probably a once in a lifetime trip. Many will be driving rented RV rigs, and others will be driving rental cars. Most of them will have reservations for the night at some place along the route and won't have any flexibility built into their plans. What will a six hour delay do to them?

It's unclear whether or not the road will be open to other traffic at the same time. Even if it is, it will likely become a one lane road as drivers try to pass gaggles of bikes. That road contains a lot of steep grades (as much as 14%) with many blind curves and long uphill stretches where slow bicycles will become even slower. It's obvious that if there is going to be a mix of motorized and pedal traffic, safety will become an very big issue. Many of the Europeans (and many Americans, for that matter) are not accustomed to driving mountain roads and their lack of knowledge and skill at handling a big rig on steep, winding highways cause some seriously dangerous situations even under normal conditions.

I've been called to some terribly bloody messes when RVs have crashed. I drove Hwy 12 just a week ago and saw some awfully hairy things. Even gave quick mountain driving tips to two drivers -- one Canadian and one Dutch -- who were both smoking their brakes on downgrades. There were also a few bicyclists and there were times when I witnessed drivers passing them when they shouldn't have tried. Let's hope no one is hurt or killed.

One other thing -- this will certainly require at least some time and taxpayer dollars to pay for extra Highway Patrol officers or Garfield County Sheriff's deputies. Will race organizers reimburse taxpayers for that?

Bike fans may love it, but then, bike fans don't count.

Gee, ec, aren't you being a little harsh on bike fans? Of course they count, just as any others do. The trick is finding a fair balance between all who use our public roads, parks and other facilities. Sometimes that can be very difficult, and no matter how carefully the wishes of everyone are considered, someone will be left with disappointment. But grown ups should be able to handle that.

Let's not dismiss the feelings of anyone, including bike fans.

Appropriate is that nice catchall word that is really meaningless and that is so easy to brandish when running out of factual arguments.

Arguments I've read so far against the bike race:

- not appropriate (translate: I don't like it)

- euro visitors who don't know how to drive a big RV might be disappointed (wow, that was a creative one :))

- too many people will show up (seems that the NPS gun toting rangers could easily limit the crowd that could come in)

- people who spend months planning their once in a lifetime trip apparently can't plan their trip outside of a 6 hour window...

- it's mainly a commercial enterprise which by default is bad (as opposed to the concessionaires who are the good kind of capitalistic pigs) :)

So, at which point will we get a real argument against that race?

Zebulon – as to "at which point will we get a real argument against that race?" I'd suggest one you've already discounted has been made.

You casually brush off the possibility that trips to Bryce Canyon and other destinations along the race route are likely to be seriously disrupted by saying "people who spend months planning their once in a lifetime trip apparently can't plan their trip outside of a 6 hour window...".

I believe you're wrong for two reasons:

1. People can't plan for interruptions if they aren't aware of them. I decided to simulate planning a trip to Bryce Canyon in early August (the time of the race), and used the same approach many others do these days. I Googled "Bryce Canyon National Park" and looked for information on lodging, campgrounds and things to do.

The following sites were the top Google "hits" for my search:

1. The park website.
2. Utah.com
3. Garfield County Office of Tourism ("Bryce Canyon Country.com")
4. "Visit Southern Utah – Heart of the Parks"
5. Trip Advisor.com

How many mentions of the upcoming race did I find during my "trip planning"? Not one. People can't plan around disruptions they don't know about.

2. It may not be your preferred way to travel (or mine), but the reality is quite a few visitors will have only one, or at the most two, days allotted to see parks like Bryce. Some will have only a few hours. No, I haven't taken time to dredge up independent data, but I'll base that opinion on 30 years of contacts with multiple thousands of park visitors at parks like Grand Canyon and Glacier, and I'll stand by it until proven wrong.

Itineraries to Bryce Canyon typically include nearby parks like Zion and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Prudent travelers to such destinations in early August make lodging and/or campground reservations months in advance, and by now, there's little or no flexibility to make changes in itineraries. For those visitors, I'd say a travel disruption of several hours or longer could definitely spoil a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

How long might traffic be tied up? So far I've been unable to find any reliable information about planning for traffic control. Given the nature of the road described in earlier comments and the lack of alternative routes for travelers during the race, my bet is on multiple hours of delays.

Is that adequate reason not to allow events such as this bike race? Local officials clearly think the answer is "no." Will those of us on this site disagree? Certainly.

An absolutely excellent post, Jim. But face it, you're battling an entitlement mentality. No way you can persuade a different point of view in someone whose total focus is ME.

Jim, I certainly agree with your point. The race should definitely be announced months in advance, so that would rule it out for 2013, but it could be planned properly for 2014.

When we visited Bryce (years and years ago), we indeed were there only for a few hours. Then again, there was no internet back then to do searches.

But people can do Google searches from now til next Sunday and the chance of noticing an announcement about a bike race are pretty darned slim. What would be needed would be a huge red-lettered WARNING - BICYCLE RACE notice. That might catch attention of some people, but I'd still bet very few would find it.

What seems to be happening around here at least, is that bike race organizers are able to convince local governments and others to allow the race, but when the governments learn first hand how disruptive the races are and how little benefit it produces, they pull the welcome mat back inside. Maybe the bike race organizers need to learn to work more carefully on minimizing those disruptions lest they find themselves locked out of almost anyplace.

I am a hard working family person who pays my taxes. I get 2 weeks vacation/year plus holidays. I have to schedule my vac at beginning of year and work around others' schedules, not to mention job activities that preclude my being gone at certain times. I have very little flexibility and am not wealthy enough to do what I want, when I want. I live in st. Louis, and my family has picked 2013 to go to Bryce, Zion, and grand Canyon. Would love to get Arches and more in there but time is limited. I only have 9 days because my other vac days are used for personal things. I have reservations at the lodge on the North Rim which were difficult to get (1 year in advance) and so I plan everything around that. I have 1.5 days at Bryce, 2 at Zion, and 2 at GC. This gives me decent time to explore the parks, plus make the haul from STL out west. This is absolutely once in a lifetime for my family. Maybe years later my wife and I will be able to return, but no way my entire family at this time in our lives. I only get to take big trips like this every other year because the cost is too much and time is incredibly difficult to set aside. I take my family camping in the Ozarks the other years. My work is so stressful I often feel I can't handle it. I am so frkn excited about this trip I can't describe it. So ready to relax and spend some time with my family doing something positive and learning more about our Parks, natural areas, wilderness, history.....America. I have reservations at the Best Western at the threshold of Bryce. I plan on getting to Bryce in the mid-morning, explore, and check in later. At roughly 9am I am pulling onto hwy12. Red Rocks gets everyone so excited...and we are not even to Bryce yet. And bad news....we aren't going to be in Bryce for a loooooong time because we are stymied by a bike race. We try to make the best of the situation, but let's face it I am really, really ticked off. I start to reach for my gun which I was looking forward to carrying around Bryce so I could pretend I was a cowboy. Maybe if I wave it around people will clear out....maybe fire a few shots in the air. But common sense, thank goodness, made me leave my guns at home where they wait for hunting season (weekends only since no vacation left).

As I sit and wait, I almost feel like I'm going to break down. So much put into this trip...and yet somehow I screwed it up. A passerby blows an air horn in my face and yells something about their favorite team. A small crowd starts singing some soccer-ish team song; as if I were in Europe. Throngs of people are partying, having a great time, and hooting and hollering. I guess since I am only in the National Forest at this point I should accept that. It's not like I should be expecting some pseudo-nature experience until I am in the Park. And maybe I am even wrong about that. After all what is "nature" and "wilderness" except some stupid, liberal hippy's take on a mythical idea that has no real meaning in our world. If anything, a bike race up to Rainbow Point that entertains so many would be even more real and beneficial to more people.

A helicopter hovers overhead. I roll up the windows and turn on the ac so we can sit there and be more mad about the situation and still be able to hear. A microbrew beer bottle careens off my bumper and shatters. Boy I could use one of those right now.

Life sucks. Deal with it you whiner.

Excellent post, Scott. You probably expressed the sentiments that will be shared by hundreds of frustrated travelers trying to make the run between Capitol Reef and Bryce during the race. And unfortunately, your last line also captures perfectly the entitlement mentality that seems to infest too many Americans when their pocketbook or favorite project encounters some opposition from others.

Just one suggestion -- if you really want to shoot at something, shoot at a yellow traffic sign. In Utah, those are acceptable targets to practice your Second Amendment rights.

I love the national parks - and I love bike racing. So this is a perfect combination for me. Unfortunately my trip to the US this year starts only at the end of August...

However, i think people here exaggerate the effect the race will have. Six hour closures? Not even at the Tour de France they close roads for that long. Maybe two, three hours, not more. And in the meantime people headed for Bryce can try out Cedar Breaks instead, Capitol Reef-bound travellers may explore Canyonlands etc. - those unexpected side trips usually are the best.

Gila,

Posters tend to exxagerate the potential impacts to make their points. Odds are that impacts would be minimum. It's primarily a sensitivity issue more than anything else. National Park lovers on the NPT board tend to abhor any use of the park that is not a contemplative hike a la John Muir. Anything short of the foregoing is not pure enough. It's a bit weird, but one gets used to it over time.

While speculating on the impact of a bike race can be interesting, I think this thread has sort of wandered from the bigger questions: 1) Should a national park be the site of special organized events (unrelated to the park's purpose or history) that significantly impact the normal use and enjoyment of the park's regular activities and purposes by the general public? 2) If yes, then who or what decides which events will be permitted -- the park service, local communities, who? Who devises the criteria for deciding? 3) Does the kind of event matter -- a bicycle race or a motorcycle rally, sky diving or hot-air ballooning? 4) Does it matter whether it is a commercial, for-profit event or a non-profit fundraiser?

Honestly I can't see any way to be fair except to say no to all. Grandfather in what's already in existence but nothing new.

@amarillo

1) Yes, why not?

2) Park administration after allowing for adequate public input

3) Yes

4) No, why should it?

Why is banning everything better than allowing everything? Fact is both those are bad. Is the Park Service incapable of making decisions on a per case basis? I don't think so. Sure, not everyone will be happy with every decision but I'm guessing more people will be happy with reasoned judgement than with outright bans.

If I have read the "telegraph" article correctly, the gentleman is doing this stunt over the Little Colorado River Canyon outside of Grand Canyon National Park.

Correct, Ron. It's located about fourteen miles outside the park on the Navajo Reservation.

But Little Colorado doesn't have the bang that Grand Canyon and probably wouldn't suck in as much money. So what's a little exaggeration or slight dishonesty in advertising?

Reminds me of the time when Evil Kenevil wanted to rocket across the "Grand Canyon" on his motor scoooter. Actually, he was going to jump Marble Canyon at Lee's Ferry. But the nasty old park service wouldn't let him. He kept insisting and when his howlings grew loud enough, the park service said, "Okay, but with conditions. If you're going to do this only as a personal achievement and purely for sport, which you claim is the case, you may do it. But with NO live TV coverage, no admission fees, and no monetary gain for you."

Evil decided not to do it if he couldn't make a bundle of money and publicity.

So he tried to jump the Snake River at Twin Falls and we all know how that turned out.

Lee -I don't know that I would want either of those events in the park but I have to ask... why was it OK if Evil Kenevil jumped without money and publicity but not if he got a monetary gain? It's the exact same act, the exact same impact on the Park. Is it just evil Evil because he would have made money? Is money really that evil a thing?

Yes. Maybe no. Then again perhaps. But are all Kenevils evil? Depends. Tell us what we should think. We humbly await thy guidance.

ec - reasonable questions in your previous comment. I'd suggest that the impacts on the park of Evil K's event, with or without the money or publicity, would not have been the exact same thing. Examples of differences would include the amount of supporting infrastructure for media coverage and spectators. No publicity = minimal crowds and traffic and no fleets of 18-wheelers for film and TV crews.

As to "is money really that evil a thing?" No, with the caveat it depends on how it's obtained or used ... and that clearly is a value judgement :-) It's hard to beat the age-old adage: it's the love of money that's the root of all evil.

The question in the current topic isn't really whether money or profit is inherently good or evil, but whether it's appropriate to convert public parklands to private use for profit, even on a temporary basis.

Jim--You make a very good point, and getting back to Colorado NM and the bike race, it's what comes along with it that makes it inappropriate for a setting like the monument. I am talking about the helicopters, the support crews, the chase cars, the press, the television infrastructure, all of which make a significant impact on park resources and visitor enjoyment The sponsors were offered a chance for the bikers to make a ceremonial ride through the monument, minus all the above. They turned it down.

Rick


but whether it's appropriate to convert public parklands to private use for profit


That's were we disagree. Private vs profit should not be the issue. The issue should be is the activity itself appropriate or not. A destructive private activity should not be allowed while a contributive one for profit should be perfectly fine (and vice versa).

The only reason to think otherwise if because one deems "profits" evil.

If I understand ecbuck's post correctly, I think he raises a good point. The issue is/or should be, the appropriateness of the activity itself. In the NPS, these policies on appropriate activities have been debated and discussed for almost 100 years now, and many have been formalized in regulations and or management policies. Some regulations are stated in the legislation creating the area itself. Others have been defined by additional congressional action like the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act or the Wilderness Act.

The issue of profit vs. non-profit is more complicated. For example, hiking is considered an appropriate use in most, if not all parks. A volunteer leader can lead a group of high school students (for example), and the person will not be required to be permitted as commercial guide as long as s/he is not charging fees of each student and making a profit off the activity. However a commercial guide is also allowed to lead trips but must get a commercial permit to do so. This is well established policy, agree with it or not.

If the public does not agree with a long standing limitation on what is an appropriate use, then there is recourse through citizen activism, congressional action etc. Sometimes the issue is so overwhelming that the technology drives the issue to a new conclusion. For example, In Yosemite all cars were banned for about fifteen years before the NPS had to cave on the issue. In any case, I do not think its a profit vs nonprofit issue, its the defined appropriate activities of the parks. Once that is established then limits on what will be permitted in the ways of fees, for profit concessions, etc. enter the discussion. In our parks, the commercial activity aspects have been generally quite limited. This is particularly true beginning with the election of FDR and the appointment of Harold Ickes (a bullmoose republican), as Secretary of the Interior, a position he held until FDR's death (if I remember my history correctly). Rick, Jim, Lee, etc., please add, correct, delete if I am off base here.

Isn't the point that National Parks, Monuments etc are established for the Nation not a local community? Local input should not succeed the bigger picture. Let state parks decided state interests and local parks decided local interests.

From my experience input from local communities is usually self severing having little to do with with why the Park was created. The locals are always the ones that want more of this and less protection for that. They believe they have more rights and input than others. If you want to what is best for the NP park survey the locals and then do the opposite.
I realise I am a bit biased because I live next to a park where the worst of local input is being crammed down the NPS 's throat.

"If you want to what is best for the NP park survey the locals and then do the opposite."

Actually, the NPS have been doing this for awhile now, its called the NEPA process.


Isn't the point that National Parks, Monuments etc are established for the Nation not a local community


Perhaps - but just like any property owner - the NPS should be a good neighbor. To ignore the impacts of the NPS on the local community or the wishes of the local users who are likely to be a large portion of the Park's visitors would be irresponsibile. That doesn't mean the locals rule, it just means the locals' input should be given strong consideration.

Yup, beach, and Buxton has explained exactly why it's necessary.

As for the question of evil money, Jim's comment is spot on. It all depends upon howthe money is obtained and used. When the money from a large corporation or powerful special interest is used to pad the pockets of lawmakers in return for special legislation that will benefit them, then I submit that is one form of evil money at work.

As for Evil Kenivil and his leap across the "Grand Canyon" at Marble Canyon, the park service invoked a long standing policy that limits commercial uses of parks and generally limits uses to non-commercial activities. They called Evil's bluff when he tried to claim that his jump was non-commercial and purely for sport. When the vision of dollars faded from his eyes, so did the idea of leaping the canyon.

Since one important "impact" of NPS areas on local communities is to bring a whole lot of money in to the coffers of local businesses, why would those local businesses want to bite the hand that is feeding it? (Unless, of course, their particular scheme would profit by an activity that might harm the very thing that attracts visitors and their dollars.) It's absolutely foolish of businesses to seek approval for something that could damage the resource that brings the dollars. Unless, of course, they are among that growing number of Americans who have become afflicted with Entitlement Syndrome and expect everyone to set aside any long term benefits so they may extract as many short term profits as possible before they bail out and leave the rest of us holding the bag. Shouldn't locals be "good neighbors" too?

The new American version of socialism: Socialize the expenses; Privatize the profits.

Does ecbuck understand the difference between "Grand Canyon" and "Grand Canyon National Park"? He's pretty good with numbers, but maybe he needs some guidance in this regard. I do understand that such designations can be confusing. Much more difficult to comprehend than say...oh I don't know...climate science for example.

Can someone define "local"? It would be helpful to me to know exactly what that means. And by "exactly" I mean it should be as precisely defined as "wilderness".


It all depends upon howthe money is obtained and used.


And why is that? I thought the goal here was to meet the mission of the Parks. What difference does it make if someone makes money? Even more baffling - what difference does it make how the money is being used? Would you question a potential employee how he is going to spend his wages before you hired him?


Does ecbuck understand the difference between "Grand Canyon" and "Grand Canyon National Park


Yes - Scott - I do understand. I raised the question, it was pointed out this wan't in the park and I am satisfied with that.

Ec:

You asked a rather philosophical question: "Is money really that evil a thing?" and I was simply replying in kind when I responded, "No, with the caveat it depends on how it's obtained or used ... and that clearly is a value judgement :-)"

I didn't interpret your question as having anything to do with "meeting the mission of parks," and neither did my response. Sorry if my answer took us off course and into the swamp of economic ethics :-)

[= 14px; line-height: 18px]"Would you question a potential employee how he is going to spend his wages before you hired him?"[/]

For all intents and puposes, doesn't this happen when people are denied employment because of off- the-job activities/behavior/lifestyle? (ex. smoking, people who legally smoke medical marijuana, etc.)

Mike

Mike,

Any employer that denies employment for anything other than behavior that may effect job performance ( and I would say in most cases the scam of medical marijuana would qualify) is only hurting himself. An employer certainly has the right to do so (as long as its not a protected class) but not many do.

Folks -

Reasonable comments by MM and ec , but the discussion has wandered way off track from the original subject of this story (special events in parks) and the purpose the Traveler. I share part of the blame for that with a previous comment, but let's try to limit future posts on this thread to subject-relative items.

Kurt's tied up with a project for a couple of days, and I volunteered to help moderate comments during hours he's not on-line. I'd appreciate your help :-)

Ecbuck


You are absolutely right about the park being good neighbours. I was being a bit facetious.
From my experience the good neighbor argument is often applied to pressure the local National Park to deviate from EL, The Organic Act, ESA, Park Management Policy or some interpretation of CFR 36. Often the park's locals neighbours are concerned about a specific special interest and the clientele that are interested in that activity and the money it will produce locally.