Monument denial crucial in race bid, GJ organizers say

The reason why Grand Junction isn’t part of the 2012 USA Pro Cycling Challenge is because its bid didn’t include Colorado National Monument, committee officials who put that proposal together said Thursday.

Had the monument been in the local bid, Grand Junction absolutely would have gotten a piece of the expected $83.5 million economic boost the premier bike race brings to the state, said Scott Mercier, chairman of the Grand Junction Local Organizing Committee.

“I still think we’ll get it in the future, but the reason we didn’t get it this year is primarily because of the monument,” Mercier said. “They (tour organizers) didn’t come out and directly say that to us, but we’ve heard from various sources again and again: ‘The monument, the monument. Boy, it would have been nice to get the monument. Let’s keep working to get the monument.’”

Not so, said Shawn Hunter, chief executive officer of the bicycle race.

Whether the monument is part of any race or not, Grand Junction will get a leg in future years, he promised.

“We liked Grand Junction with or without the monument,” Hunter said. “We’re a big fan of Grand Junction, and the community is definitely in our future plans. We actually delayed our city announcement by about three weeks because the bids were so good across the board. We were working on a number of routes, and we wanted to put together the best city and route announcement we could.”

As it happened, the route that was chosen will go from Durango to Telluride, Montrose to Crested Butte, Gunnison to Aspen,  Aspen to Beaver Creek Village, Breckenridge to Colorado Springs, Golden to Boulder and conclude with a time trial in Denver.

The event is organized by Georgia-based company Medalist Sports.

Hunter said Durango has been trying for a couple of years to be included in the race, and organizers like that area, too.

Still, Mercier’s head spins when he talks about why the National Park Service turned down having the tour on Colorado National Monument, saying they did so because the race is a for-profit sporting event.

“Their objection has something to do with for-profit commercial entities,” Mercier said. “The problem with that is they are inconsistently enforcing that. We have numerous examples of not only the Colorado National Monument, but other national parks that have allowed for-profit companies to operate.”

Mercier said he doesn’t understand why the U.S. Forest Service routinely issues permits for such for-profit events, but the Park Service won’t.

The bid Grand Junction submitted to race organizers this year included a possible leg in Grand Mesa National Forest.

The request to include the monument in the tour initially was turned down by the monument’s superintendent at the time, Joan Anzelmo, who has since retired.

Michelle Wheatley, the monument’s interim superintendent, supports that decision, saying the Park Service operates its properties differently than the Forest Service.

“We have different laws and policies in place for the different areas that we manage,” she said. “We manage our lands in different ways. We have different mandates.”

Wheatley said the Park Service isn’t likely to change its stance on the matter.


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