Agency approach to bike race perplexing
It’s no secret that I’ve spent the better part of my adult life wrestling with (mostly) federal bureaucrats about issues related to multiple use of public lands.
From writing my own proposed management plan for the White River National Forest to passing legislation transforming the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes National Monuments into national parks, it’s fair to say that I’ve dealt with my share of rigid bureaucrats along the way.
Even so, I continue to be perplexed with the approach being taken by the National Park Service to continually deny our community’s request to use a stretch of Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument as part of a leg of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
As communities around Colorado have been celebrating the exposure and economic windfall associated with hosting a leg of this professional cycling race that zigzags the Centennial State each summer, Grand Junction continues to be left in the cold due to the obstructive posture taken by the National Park Service.
Taking the usual “sky is falling” mantle, representatives from this agency seem to believe that there is no way to manage the minimal impacts of this event, so they feel comfortable flatly denying our community’s application, time after time.
Does anyone wonder why taxpayers have had it up to here with federal agencies and their rigid application of rules that fly in the face of the will of Congress?
This past year, two friends of mine, Sen. Mark Udall and 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton, organized a committee made up of various interests throughout our valley to explore the notion of upgrading Colorado National Monument to national park status.
Well-meaning people on all sides of this issue came together to explore the pros and cons and ultimately determined that our community is split on the topic.
How could our community support enhancing the profile and power of the National Park Service in our valley when the agency’s rigid unwillingness to partner with us on events like the USA Pro Cycling Challenge is on full display?
Should we forget that it took a court injunction to stop the Park Service from charging Glade Park residents a fee to access their properties? What’s happened to common sense and being a good neighbor?
Ironically, the National Park Service doesn’t seem to understand the history and the culture of Colorado National Monument.
For more than 100 years, our community has cherished — and taken care of — that special place.
Allowing a four-mile stretch of Rim Rock Drive to be included as a part of a Grand Junction leg of this bike race will not harm the monument. It will only enhance the exposure of this treasured landscape and attract more people to come see it. Some of us believe that’s a good thing.
Ultimately, officials with the National Park Service have a choice. They can choose to sit down with our community to negotiate this issue in good faith or they can continue sending denial letters from Denver.
My hope is that everyone can take a deep breath and sit down to find a way to make this happen. That’s what we do in western Colorado.
Scott McInnis is a former representative from Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. He is currently executive director of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.