Parks group opposed to bike race on monument
A celebratory lap across Colorado National Monument is appropriate for the winner of the Grand Valley leg of a professional bike race, the National Parks Conservation Association said.
The actual competition, however, should be conducted elsewhere, the association said in a letter it sent to Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Udall and Hickenlooper last month wrote to the National Park Service encouraging officials to meet with backers of the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race.
Race organizers sought to conduct part of the race along Rim Rock Drive on the monument, but were rebuffed by Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, who maintained the race would intrude on monument values and prevent visitors from using the monument on race day.
Even limited effects of the race pose a long-term threat, David Nimkin, regional director of the conservation association, said in the letter.
“Perhaps the greatest threats to our parks is the apparent modest activities that individually appear quite benign but in the aggregate lead to fundamental impacts that are immutable,” Nimkin wrote.
Race organizers said they have taken pains to protect the monument. One of the organizers, John Hopkins, called the monument “a unique venue that would be the signature of the event,” which also would take in Gateway and the wine country on the east end of the Grand Valley.
The monument already is known in racing circles because of the Tour of the Moon lap across it during the Coors Classic races of the 1980s, Hopkins said.
Organizers and National Park Service representatives are to meet March 18 at the visitor center on the monument to see if a compromise can be reached.
The Park Service, Nimkin wrote, “should not compromise their position on the issue.” The association is a nonprofit organization with more than 325,000 members across the nation.
Agreeing to a full-race lap along Rim Rock Drive could set a precedent that “would only encourage this kind of activity” on the monument as well as at other Park Service venues, Nimkin said in an interview. The natural values of the monument could be threatened by the race, Nimkin said, cautioning that the area “is not an urban park. The distinction needs to be maintained.”
The association’s opposition to the race has no bearing on its position on a proposal to upgrade the status of the monument to a national park.
“We would caution conflation of the bike-race decision with any continued consideration of national park status for the monument,” Nimkin wrote.
The owners of the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race have invested $10 million to ensure the race continues indefinitely.
The race is negotiating for a television deal for live coverage of the event, which this summer will include cities such as Aspen, Crested Butte, Gunnison and Salida.