Email letters, Sept. 13, 2012

Monument marathon could be nixed for two reasons for saying no to cycling race

After a long night of darkness, Scott McInnis has resurfaced on the Commentary page of Sept.12. There, he castigates Colorado National Monument management for denying permission for a bicycle race through a four-mile section of the monument.

I, too, question monument management’s judgment concerning spectator events held there, but my position is rather contrary to that of McInnis. I’m wondering how Superintendent Lisa Eckert can deny permission for the bicycle race, but still permit the upcoming annual marathon that covers the same four miles (and more) that the bicycle race would cover.

In denying permission for the bicycle race, Eckert cited three reasons, which I am paraphrasing:

1) The bicycle race would have no “meaningful association” with the monument nor foster greater visitor understanding of it. Rather, the race simply would draw spectators to an athletic contest, not primarily to an experience of the monument or its values.

2) Conducting the bicycle race “along narrow, winding Rim Rock Drive” poses a conflict with other monument visitors and impairs the tranquility of the monument, particularly by closing this same four-mile segment.

3) There is the matter of possibly awarding prizes of more than nominal value to winners of events held in the monument.

I don’t know anything about the value of prizes awarded for the winners of the annual marathon. But how can it possibly be that the first and second reasons cited by Eckert would not apply to the marathon as well?

Grand Junction

Libyan murders illustrate US foreign policy weakness

The current administration’s dealing with the unrest and killings in Libya reminds me of an incident back when Carter ran against Reagan. I seem to recall Carter’s failures in foreign policy demonstrating just what can happen if one is weak in that department. It looks like they face the same situation now.

Eastwood’s ridiculed “empty chair” routine last week was perhaps closer to truth than spoof. It not only stimulated conversation and enraged liberals but also spawned a bunch of gag photos and jokes on the Internet. An empty chair equaling an empty suit is implied, I believe.

Normally things such as being AWOL at presidential events, frequent golf outings, expensive vacations, apologies, bows to and borrowing money from foreign countries, cover-ups, lies and bypassing Congress would be forgotten by election time. Not now.

Thanks to the Internet, all the world sees this foolish behavior, including American voters.

Grand Junction

Consider greater good of all Americans when determining Colorado National Monument uses

I realize that as an ordinary citizen, my opinion has the impact of an extra gallon of water over Niagara Falls. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to answer the column Scott McInnis recently wrote in The Daily Sentinel. McInnis purported to be perplexed regarding the National Park Service’s approach to and—let’s be clear here—the USA Pro Cycling Challenge’s proposal to use a portion of Colorado National Monument.

I fail to see anything perplexing. It appears to me that Park Service management is doing exactly what it has been charged with doing in the enabling legislation, the Organic Act of 1916 and subsequent clarification by Congress itself with such documents as the General Authorities Act of 1970, the Redwood Amendment of 1978 and other shaping legislation such as the 1998 National Parks Omnibus Management Act and individual park-enabling acts.

Colorado National Monument, as a unit of the National Park Service, is not the sole possession of Mesa County or even the state of Colorado. Therefore, determination for appropriate uses of this unit must be made with the greater good of American people in mind, not with the economic benefit of entities that happen to be close by. Mcinnis would apparently subvert these decisions for the benefit of one particular entity, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. He cites as justification “exposure and economic windfall,” and he purports to represent the “community.”

Sorry, I take exception to lumping others and me as the community when he really means the USA Pro Cycling Challenge officials and a few local businessmen. In that regard, I think it would be healthy to step back and really examine just how much of an economic windfall it is to the communities who have hosted a leg of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. And by communities, I mean the folks who live and work there, not the promoters who without exception or examination tout jumping onto this bandwagon.

He speaks also of the “will of Congress.” I believe that the will of Congress originated and has continually clarified the mandate to the National Park Service.

So, it sure seems to me that National Park Service bureaucrats are doing a good job of what they are supposed to be doing, as opposed to the current trend of politicians to pay no attention whatsoever to the will of the people that elected them. The negative impacts of crowds, overflights, etc. on the monument’s plants and animals should be self-evident.

If I were an out-of-state or international visitor who traveled hundreds of miles to visit this beautiful place, I would be extremely upset to be told I couldn’t because of local greed. What I don’t understand is why McInnis, whose name is so closely tied to conservation in this area, would want to support an endeavor which would so obviously have a very negative impact on the plants, animals and visitors to such an environmentally sensitive area as Colorado National Monument.

Grand Junction


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While I do not find the “Agency approach to bike race perplexing”, I agree with former Representative Scott McInnis 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, none of the statutory and regulatory objections raised by dedicated, responsible stewards of the Colorado National Monument are 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 McInnis 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

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