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Traveler's View: No Professional Bike Racing At Colorado National Monument


Is a bike race necessary to build upon the spectacular scenery and rich natural and cultural resources of Colorado National Monument to justify a name change to Colorado National Park? NPS photos.

If a professional bike race charging through Colorado National Monument is the key to the rugged red-rock landscape and its treasures in western Colorado being redesignated as a "national park," then it's time to end the discussion over a name change.

The contention by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper that running a stage of the 2012 Quiznos Pro Challenge through the monument "can significantly add to the stature and profile of the effort to designate the Monument as a National Park" is shortsighted and seemingly shows a failure to fully appreciate that which the monument preserves.

Within its 20,534 acres Colorado Monument offers visitors not just the soaring beauty of rock monoliths reaching into the sky and intriguing and fragile cryptobiotic soil crusts essential to life on the Colorado Plateau but also tombs of fossilized dinosaur remains and their footprints and puzzling traces of prehistoric cultures. All set against a colorful ruddy sandstone backdrop.

No doubt, it would be a dazzling backdrop for television cameras following more than 100 elite cyclists during one stage of their seven-day run through Colorado. But the impacts and disruptions it would have on the monument alone make it unsuitable. Superintendent Joan Anzelmo says the race would require the monument to be closed to the public for at least 12 hours during the monument's high summer season, and during the race aircraft would hover overhead the peloton while support vehicles and caravans carrying VIPs snake along Rim Rock Drive behind the racers.

While professional bike racing is exciting to watch, and the red-rock beauty of Colorado Monument a breathtaking postcard for not just Colorado but the entire National Park System, the two don't belong together. Yosemite National Park officials back in 2009 reached a similar conclusion when they declined a request to allow a professional bike race to weave through the Yosemite Valley.

Commercial activities that prevent use of the park by visitors have no place in NPS areas. To contend that such a race is necessary to heighten the prospects of redesignating Colorado Monument as a national park is terribly myopic and undervalues the wonders that exist there.

If generating more tourism dollars for the surrounding area is what really is driving Mr. Udall and Mr. Hickenlooper, a much more lasting and stronger driver would be the "national park" imprint, something Mr. Udall can advance through legislation that rightfully stands on the well-established merits of the monument.

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Sounds like a great way to bring attention to the awesome parks we have in the US. Trade-off.


I get from the article that you are against the race going through the Monument but I can't really tell why. Is it solely the conceptual conflict of a commercial activity in that area? The 12 hour closure? How many people would that actually affect? Or is there some fear of permanent damage. If the latter, what damage caused how?

If there are good reasons to be against it, I may be with you, but they aren't clear to me yet.


I think there are a number of inherent conflicts with this proposal, beginning with the need to close the monument for at least 12 hours to the general public to stage a bike race.

What would you think if you were driving, say, from Rocky Mountain National Park to Canyonlands or the Grand Canyon, and you planned on stopping at Colorado National Monument and Mesa Verde along the way, but when you pulled up to the gate of the monument they said, "Sorry, we're closed today so we can host a bike race"?

Then, too, there's the impact the race would have on the park. Have you ever watched the Tour de France or any other professional bike race? Not only do you have the peloton snaking through the monument with its support vehicles, emergency vehicles, sponsor vehicles, and VIP vehicles, but you can have hundreds, if not thousands, of onlookers lining the road.

And if you approve a professional bike race through Colorado National Monument, what about one through Yellowstone, or over Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain, or through Arches National Park? Where do you draw the line?

Finally, the implication that a bike race is needed to justify renaming the monument as a national park is ridiculous.

This (the unexpected closure of a park I was visiting) has actually happened to me. I was visiting Salem Maritime NHS in Massachusetts on July 4th but couldn't access most facilities because a private company was setting up for the town's fireworks display. As I live in Oregon, that might well have been the only time I will ever visit Salem, MA, so it's quite possible I will never get to see the historic buildings and ships that site has to offer.

So, while the closure of Colorado NM might seem like a minor annoyance, for the traveler with limited vacation time and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit, it will definitely be a "big deal."

I agree 100% with Kurt. No commercial uses for our National Monuments or National Parks should ever be on the agenda. These beautiful, fragile National Monuments and Parks belong to all the people, all the time. Naming a bike race after a sub sandwich shop is a bit much in any case. I live in Colorado and you can be sure that Udall and Hickenlooper are hearing from me.

I'm not sure that the environmental impacts of such a race couldn't be mitigated with good event management. I've been to large crowded events in NPS units (I mentioned the Blue Angels) in San Francisco last year, and the LE rangers and US Park Police did an excellent job of crowd control, although they only closed off several roads to new vehicle for a few hours.

I looked at the park map of Colorado NM. Basically one way in or out, but with an alternate road that doesn't seem to have an entrance station. Close it for 12 hours and there does seem to be a pretty substantial problem. I've dealt with event closures before. On the way to Grand Teton, we had to go around Twin Falls Idaho "Pioneer Days" celebration. However - that could be handled by using surface streets. I could imagine closing off Colorado NM for 12 hours could mean race viewers might do illegal things such as illegally camp on the side of the road. I think people simply watching from the side of the road could be mitigated with strict enforcement to protect the fragile soil, but the hard part would be how race viewers would get in/park/etc.

For Jan C., the fact is there are commercial uses within the NPS - and lots of them. It's as basic as commercial use permits for wedding photographers or tour buses, and can get as complex as concession contracts or even working farms at Point Reyes National Seashore. Numerous movies and commercials were filmed at NPS units, including the Grand Canyon IMAX movie that showed people accessing areas that I'm sure would be off limits to the general public. I thought that the Marines had a commercial at Grand Canyon NP, but apparently that was filmed at a part of the GC on the Haulapai Reservation.


I've definitely seen races at NPS units, and have even encountered a few firsthand. There have been several versions of the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon over the years, which of course starts with racers jumping from the side of Alcatraz. Earlier versions had runners along the Dipsea Trail, which partially winds through Muir Woods NM. I was hiking the Dipsea Trail once when I noticed runners with race bibs closing in on me. It was some local race, with no signs and no closures. I was heading back to my car on the Matt Davis Trail when a racer passed me by, tripped over an exposed root, and got up to continue. Also Death Valley has a few races, including ones that supposedly occur during the middle of summer.


This race is in it's 36th Year.

I ran the 6.7 Mile leg finishing 2nd (age group). Body never felt so drained of Oxygen at the 7200 Ft. altitude. Had to laugh when the maintenance crew chose to close the rest rooms for cleaning 45 Min. before the race started. They did give in and let us use the facilities as part of their Adaptive Use Policy, LOL!

I agree that this is an inappropriate event, since as others have mentioned, the commercial activity would essentially close the entire park to all visitor use for an entire day during a busy time of the season. In this location, viable alternative travel routes that would bypass the event in the park aren't available.

A general guideline for commercial activities in parks, such as the film making mentioned above, is that the activity isn't supposed to interfere with normal visitor use of the park. That's why such activity is often conducted in locations, or at times, that are not usually accessible by most visitors. At one time, that was NPS policy, although it may have changed.

Policy or not, does some "interference" with normal visitor use occur during large special events and even some commercial activity in NPS areas? Yes, but rarely do those events shut down an entire park for a full day.

The park made the right call on this one, and deserves to be supported. When in doubt, err on the side of protecting the experience of visitors who came to see and enjoy the park resources, not a commercial sporting event that can be held anywhere there's a paved road.

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