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.


COMMENTS

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While I do not find the “Agency approach to bike race perplexing”, I agree with former Representative Scott McGinnis that the National Park Service should grant a waiver for “our community’s request to use a stretch of Rim Rock Drive in Colorado’s National Monument as part of a leg of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge” – for two reasons:

First, “our community’s efforts” constitute a bipartisan endeavor to promote economic benefits for the Grand Valley.  Our Country sorely needs more such bipartisanship, and Western Colorado needs whatever economic boosts that can reasonably be generated.  Therefore, all federal agencies should be sympathetic to opportunities like this – when they advance both legitimate objectives.

Second, I find none of the statutory and regulatory objections raised by our responsible stewards of the Colorado National Monument to be inherently insurmountable. 

Rather, if it is true that “representatives of this agency seem to believe that there is no way to manage the minimal impacts of this event”, then either those impacts are not as “minimal” as McGinnis suggests, or event planners have not convincingly minimized them – whether the “stretch” is only four miles or 23 miles (as in “American Flyer”).

Given the topography of and sensitive fauna and flora along either route, anyone who has seen a bike race must surely realize that both safely accommodating hundreds of waiting spectators and protecting the natural values of John Otto’s legacy are daunting tasks – but not necessarily impossible within adequately supervised limits.

If the Tour of the Valley and Ride the Rockies can “ride the Monument” for charity, then a commercial bike race (and other credible enterprises) can be allowed to do likewise – in exchange for a substantial charitable contribution to a Monument Trust, an adequate bond for unintended damages, and an ironclad “hold harmless” agreement to protect taxpayers. 

              Bill Hugenberg

Mr. McInnis is entitled to his opinions regarding the National Park Service, and he seldom passes up an opportunity to voice them.  He is not, however, entitled to his own facts.  And so, I offer a point of correction:  The National Park Service was not sued because it sought to charge Glade Park residents a fee for access to their homes.  Quite to the contrary, the NPS was issuing free windshield stickers to Glade Park residents so that they could be readily identified by fee collectors and allowed to pass through the monument without charge.  The plaintiff in the case didn’t object to the free access or claim that the NPS was attempting to charge him for access to his property.  Rather, he objected to the method the NPS employed to verify the status of those who claimed to be Glade Park residents, landowners, and business owners—that is, an agency requirement to fill out and sign an affidavit.  I hasten to add that the county commissioners and representatives of the Glade Park community initially approved of that method, and in fact the county even furnished the NPS copies of its tax rolls to aid in the verification process.  Only later did Mesa County join the law suit against the NPS, primarily over matters relating to the use of the Rim Rock Drive by oversize commercial vehicles.

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