There’s no legal bar to monument bike race

The co-founder of the company that owns this newspaper, Fred Seaton, served as Secretary of the Interior to President Dwight Eisenhower from 1956 to 1961. In that capacity, he bore the responsibility to protect and manage all national parks and national monuments, including Colorado National Monument.

Coincidentally, a former publisher of The Daily Sentinel, Walter Walker, played a critical role in winning “national monument” designation for our treasured backyard natural wonder. Today, The Daily Sentinel supports and is working for a redesignation of the monument as a national park.

It is with these tethers in mind to a history of safeguarding our protected areas that we call on the National Park Service to work toward allowing — in a way faithful to the goal of preserving unimpaired this magnificent landscape to our west — the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race over the monument.

Conservative estimates put the economic impact for such an event in the millions of dollars, with a return of six dollars for every dollar spent by the host community.

This does not account for the soft marketing associated with making Grand Junction the epicenter of the biking world for two to three days, captured for millions of viewers worldwide by Versus television.

For a number of years in the 1980s, the Coors International Bicycle Classic included a stage over Colorado National Monument.  That stage was so highly regarded for its exotic landscape that it became known as “The Tour of the Moon.”

Based on our reading of the federal regulations governing national parks, there is no express bar to such an event occurring today. These regulations were crafted to balance preservation of our most treasured lands with the public’s use and appreciation of them.

The only express bar to events such as the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race appears in the management policies of the National Park Service, which would prohibit an event that “awards participants an appearance fee or prizes of more than nominal value.”

The Quiznos Pro Challenge is a professional cycling event that will, indeed, pay out cash prizes, though in the case of the monument, the prize money would be incidental to the course. That is, money would be awarded to the first finishers through the entire Grand Junction stage, regardless of who was first over the monument.

Significantly, however, the National Park Service’s management policies have no legally binding effect. They were drafted, not by Congress or at the direction of Congress, but “only to improve the internal management of the National Park Service; they are not intended to, and do not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural.”

The Management Policies do, however, govern the actions of park superintendents. Joan Anzelmo, Colorado National Monument superintendent, issued her letter of denial to the proposed race over the monument last week because she was doing her job. And doing it appropriately.

But the law does not prohibit a pro race over the monument. Indeed, the Coors Classic race took place over Colorado National Monument through 1987, and other professional cycling races employed the monument through 1990.

Significantly, the regulations governing “special events” such as the Coors Classic in national parks and monuments became effective in 1983, meaning the law that allowed the Coors Classic race over the monument remains the law applicable to the bid presented by Quiznos Pro Challenge.

We believe the Quiznos Pro Challenge bike race can further the purpose of the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act if the event is properly tailored to protect the delicate flora, fauna and landscape of Colorado National Monument. At the same time, a properly conducted race would expose countless cycling enthusiasts to the beauty of our landscape and the wonders of what has been described as the religious experience of riding over the monument.

By limiting the number of spectators permitted on top of the monument and imposing other thoughtful limitations, the National Park Service can fulfill its dual obligations.


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