Park Service should not derail bike race

When Colorado Sen. Mark Udall hosts a meeting in Grand Junction later this month to discuss possible designation of Colorado National Monument as a national park, you can bet the Quiznos Pro Challenge bicycle race will come up.

Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo last year rejected an initial proposal for the 2012 bike race that would have included one portion of the race making three laps across the monument via Rimrock Drive. Anzelmo listed the potential threat to monument tranquility and to the environment if a portion of the race were to be staged across the monument.

Now, race supporters are back with a revised proposal designed to significantly reduce the impact on the monument by, among other things, drastically restricting vehicle traffic.

And this time they have some powerful political support, with Udall and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper jointly asking the regional director of the National Park Service to approve the race.
We applaud both men for jumping into the fray on this issue. It’s difficult to believe that the atmosphere and the environment can’t be protected while allowing an event that will attract international attention to the amazing landscape of the monument.

Attracting greater attention to the sandstone towers, deep canyons and mesa tops of the national monument is one of the ostensible reasons for seeking national park designation.
That the bike race and possible park designation are linked was made evident by the letter Udall and Hickenlooper wrote to the Park Service.

“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.”

That’s certainly sensible. Furthermore, since national park designation requires action by Congress, support of the people in the region where the facility is located is crucial to encouraging Congress to act. But it’s difficult to envision this community throwing its support behind such an effort if the Park Service is unwilling to allow an event that a broad spectrum of local residents endorses.

The Park Service should stop trying to derail the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race and work with organizers to permit a race in a manner that serves the interests of the community and the monument, as well as the event itself.


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