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U.S. Senator, Colorado Governor Lobby National Park Service To Allow Bike Race Through Colorado National Monument


Colorado politicians want the National Park Service to approve a professional bike race through Colorado National Monument. Top photo, Monument Valley, bottom photo, Rim Rock Drive on the eastern side of the park, by NPS.

National Park Service officials are being lobbied by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper to allow a professional bike race to zoom through Colorado National Monument.

On Monday the two sent a letter to the Park Service's Intermountain regional director, John Wessels, asking him to sit down to discuss allowing a stage of the 2012 Quiznos Pro Challenge race to go through the national monument during the August cycling event's week-long competition.

An initial proposal from a group hoping to lure the bike ride to the Grand Junction area called for a three-lap loop of the race through the monument. It was turned down by Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, who cited the logistics involved, which included closing Rim Rock Drive through the park for 12 hours, feed zones, support vehicles, and overheard air support.

“I denied the permit, but I offered the option of a ceremonial lap without all the race support vehicles and aircraft, and the local committee felt they could not make that viable with the race," Superintendent Anzelmo said Tuesday.

While the local committee, which the superintendent said is planning to bid for a stage of the 2012 race, came back with a somewhat scaled-down approach, one that would entail two, instead of three, laps of the monument, she said it still would have impacts on the monument's normal operations during the busiest time of year.

While the Colorado Monument last summer did host a portion of the Denver Post Ride the Rockies bike tour, Superintendent Anzelmo 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. "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 were hopeful that a solution could be worked out.

"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."

Superintendent Anzelmo said work was under way to schedule a meeting.

“We are continuing to evaluate the proposal and internally asking ourselves a lot of questions," she said, noting that the questions involved such issues as "How can you do this without impacting resources, how can you close the road for 12 hours in the summer?”

Back in 2009 Yosemite National Park officials fielded a similar request to allow a leg of a bike race to negotiate the Yosemite Valley early in 2010. Park officials declined the request, citing the "disruption" the event would have caused for park visitors

Here's the wording of the letter from Sen. Udall and Gov. Hickenlooper:

Mr. John Wessels
Regional Director, Intermountain Region
National Park Service
12795 Alameda Parkway
Denver, CO 80225

Dear Mr. Wessels:

We are writing to request that your office convene a meeting regarding the revised proposal submitted by the Grand Junction Quiznos Pro Challenge Local Organizing Committee (Committee) to stage a portion of the Quiznos Pro Challenge cycling race through Colorado National Monument (Monument).

We understand that the Committee's initial proposal to host the bike race at the Monument was rejected, but - based on the issues and concerns raised by Superintendent Joan Anzelmo regarding the initial draft - the Committee has since offered a revised proposal. We are requesting that you convene a meeting with representatives of the Committee and Superintendent Anzelmo to reach agreement on the proposed event.

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. 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.

We will make our staff available to participate in this meeting if needed and look forward to helping reach a resolution that is beneficial to all involved.


Every time I've been on a bike trail after a professional race, I've spent a lot of time picking up gatorade bottles and goo packets. One wonders if the race organizers have thought about this issue.

It seems to me that this is a blatant attempt to glean limited commercial benefits from Colorado National Monument, to the detriment of the purposes for which the monument was created.

I think that people who plan to see the monument while they are on their limited-time-frame vacations, would be disappointed, indeed angered, to find that part of their vacation had been usurped by such an event. JHF

Mr. Udall's family is part of the Department of The Interior's past heritage.

His family was part of the Eisenhower Administration and the Reagan Administration as well. They were proud visionary conservationist and fierce protectors of America’s people and special places.

But, his presumption to take this treasure from its rightful place as America's Best i.e. National Parks, to put it into the crass commercialisim takes his family's efforts back to nothing. If this race is allowed to disgrace our American Treasures, Mr. Udall and his family take responsibility for creating, fostering the care-for, and then destroying the significance of our parks!

I'm sure that his need to make money to run his campaign out weighs his country's need to protect the great places that are part of this National Park System.

Too bad Mr. Udall and his race buddies really didn't get the message about preserve and protect, for all Americans, all the time, against all foes, for the enjoyment of all of the people!

Corporate greed and the need to make money while passing this off as a good way for the NPS to get some news highlights and film coverage while the race progresses through the Park, just smacks of the 'dumbing-down of America'!

This kind of interference with the normal way the National Parks are managed, by competent and careful people is bullying at the top of the chain. Shame on Mr. Udall !!

Everyone needs to just take a deep breath here. First of all, the community of Grand Junction values the National Monument and we take care of it. So spare me the "gatorade bottle cleanup" BS. It can be managed. Next, one major component missing from this article is the rich history our national monument has of hosting competitive bicycle events (Coors Classic, Tour of the Moon, etc.). Back in the day when we had superintendents who actually believed in --and promoted-- multiple use of public land our community pulled off some great events in partnership with the Park Service. Unfortunately, now we're stuck dealing with a bureaucrat who came from Yosemite who's decided the community can't do anything in "her" monument.
For those of us who live here, I'll tell you that we all appreciate Sen. Udall and Gov. Hickenlooper's efforts to go right over the Sup's head. She had a chance to work with the community but decided not to.

I can't believe the superintendent's unwillingness to showcase the monument she manages to THE WORLD with a pro bike race. What seems ironic to me is something inside the Udall and Hickenlooper letter...that they're considering "upgrading" this monument to a national park. If that's really happening, why in the world would the local superintendent want to miss the chance to show the world what's special about the Colorado National Monument? Might just make a compelling case and build some sort of momentum for a change in designation, right?

How can the superintendent on one hand say that we want the world to come see what's special about our monument -- but on the other hand say we don't want anyone to come see it and/or enjoy it if they're on bicycles? My last point...I googled Grand Junction, Colorado and one of the first things that came up was their 10% unemployment rate. WIth a local economy in the ditch, does the Park Service REALLY want to prevent local businesses from benefitting from this type of event?

Maybe I just don't get it.

If the NPS is not going to allow a bike race because 1) it requires helicopters, 2) it requires closure and 3) some one will make money, then the NPS should ban all film production in the national parks because they have been doing all these things since 1910.  A bike race is really no different than a film shoot except its over much faster.

Film shoots don't allow closure to the public for generally more than 15 minutes at a time.  There could certainly be exceptions to that but then that park is probably not doing a good job at permitting.  Helicopters are seldom used and again, if approved, only for very short periods of time.  Unfortunately the NPS does not control the airspace above the parks and so unless a helicopter is basically creating a dangerous situation there is not much a park can do.  As a result there are frequently helicopters that film over parks without written permission from the parks.  I agree that parks should be much more restrictive with allowing any aerial filming and better control over commercial filming should be happening, but overall that statement can't be compared to the bike race proposal at COLM.

@Marjorie: I've seen energy food packets on trails after professional mountain bike races, so I know what you're talking about. This, however, is a road race. It would be only on paved roads.

I've seen a number of professional road races. The helicopter is overhead only as long as the riders are. If the riders move through in 30 minutes, the helicopter won't be there longer than that. But yes, if they're doing circuits in the Colorado National Monument for hours, the helicopter will be there for that length of time.

The Tour of California professional road race has given a lot of publicity to a number of rural and urban California locations and attracted TV coverage that I suspect was broadcast overseas. (This included sportcaster Phil Liggett, who referred to the California Legislature in Sacramento as the State Parliament!) The race has also filled hotel rooms and I would think benefited local economies, judging from how cities and counties vie to attract a stage each year. If this race attracts the same star-studded field of professional racers, I suspect it'll bring a lot of money into Grand Junction for a few days and, in coming years, may cause Europeans who watch it on TV to visit the west slope and the Colorado National Monument specifically.

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