Monument bicycle race a possibility

Governor, senator seeking Park Service's permission

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., are asking the National Park Service to allow a bicycle race to cross Colorado National Monument.

The governor and Udall wrote to the Intermountain regional director of the park service to set up a meeting to consider a revised proposal for the event, one that makes the monument a smaller part of the Quiznos Pro Challenge bicycle race in 2012.

Such a meeting is being organized, Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo said, noting that the Park Service is continuing its review of the new proposal, which was already in progress.

The Quiznos Pro Challenge will be run in seven stages in August, beginning in Colorado Springs and passing through Salida, Crested Butte and Mount Crested Butte, Gunnison, Aspen, Vail, Avon, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Golden and Denver.

The National Park Service last year rejected a proposal that one section of the race cross the monument.

That proposal called for three laps of the race on Rim Rock Drive across the monument.

It would have required closure of the monument for six hours at the peak of the tourist season to allow the race, which was to have included 144 cyclists, as well as helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft for media coverage.

Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo cited the threat to the tranquility of the monument, as well as other values, in rejecting the original proposal.

Proposals for events in Yellowstone National Park and other parks had been rejected for similar reasons, Anzelmo noted at the time.

The revised proposal submitted to the Park Service calls for two laps instead of three across the monument, as well as restrictions limiting spectators to foot and bicycle access to the monument, said John Hopkins of the organizing committee in Grand Junction.

“We’re trying to respond to the issues that were raised, and appropriately so,” Hopkins said.

The organizing committee is preparing other potential routes for the race, including one that would begin in Gateway and traverse the monument before winding up in downtown Grand Junction, Hopkins said.

Another potential route could include the wine country on the east end of the valley, Hopkins said.

The committee will submit three options to Medalist Sports, which will manage the event, Hopkins said.

In all cases the monument will be a “piece of the stage” for the event, not the only one, Hopkins said.

Udall and Hickenlooper wrote to John Wessels, who heads the Intermountain Region for the Park Service, asking for consideration of the new proposal.

“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,” Udall and Hickenlooper 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.”

Udall is to host a meeting on Feb. 23 in Grand Junction to seek comment on whether to pursue park designation for the monument.



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