Consistency-challenged National Park Service

About that precedent that National Park Service officials fear would be established if they allowed a portion of the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race to traverse Rim Rock Drive in Colorado National Monument, perhaps Park Service leaders in the national headquarters should look closer to home, to Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.

“Rock Creek Park is truly a gem in our nation’s capital,” says the National Park Service website for the park. “It offers visitors an opportunity to reflect and soothe their spirits through the beauty of nature. Fresh air, majestic trees, wild animals, and the ebb and flow of Rock Creek emanate the delicate aura of the forest.”

This oasis of nature is also home each July to the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, a professional event with a $1.2 million purse. As the tennis tournament’s website notes, the event is “Held in beautiful Rock Creek Park, a division of the National Park Service.” The venue is “a 7,500 seat facility which features 31 air-conditioned courtside suites.”

We’re not arguing that’s inappropriate. In fact, it makes a great deal of sense in a national park facility in that area — but you won’t see much mention of it on the National Park Service site touting the splendor of nature at Rock Creek Park.

We also believe that it makes a great deal of sense to allow a professional bicycle race on a long-established paved road in Colorado National Monument — a road that has been a haven for bicyclists for decades. Like the tennis competition in Rock Creek Park, the bike race traversing one highly developed part of the monument won’t do anything to destroy the spectacular beauty or opportunities to enjoy nature in the monument.

Speaking of consistency, one could also mention the fact that commercial helicopter operators take visitors on flights through the Grand Canyon, and even land on the canyon floor, doing more to disrupt the solitude of that great national park each day than a bike race across the monument would do in a dozen years.

There are other examples from various National Park Service facilities. Commercial activities, and in some cases, commercial competition, are not unique. That’s why we were disappointed last week that Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar upheld National Park Service officials and their bogus claim that allowing a professional bike race in Colorado National Monument would create a precedent throughout the nation’s network of national parks.

Further, a nearly identical race was held in Colorado National Monument, under the very same regulations that exist today. But an application for such a race in 2011 yields a different result than an application circa 1983. Talk about inconsistent.

Perhaps the most important feature of the U. S. Constitution is a judiciary system that allows even average citizens to challenge decisions of the government — indeed, even decisions of the federal government — that are inconsistent or arbitrary.  We are blessed to have such as system.


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