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Close the Colorado Monument for a Bike Race?



March 9, 2011

FRUITA, Colo. - The Quiznos Pro Challenge will feature 120 cyclists racing across the state in a week-long event that has been compared to the Tour de France. One stage of the race is causing controversy, however, as organizers hope to bring the Pro Challenge to the Colorado Monument in 2012. That means racers, members of the news media and dozens of support crews.

It would require closing the site's Rim Road for at least six hours – and that's a problem, according to David Nimkin, Southwest Region director, National Parks Conservation Association.

"You have a major transportation stem that goes through the park, so that if you close it, you pretty much limit access to the entire park, to a large extent."

The Monument's superintendent has rejected the request, suggesting instead that the tour hold a celebratory lap along the Rim Road. Race organizers rejected that suggestion. Now, Sen. Mark Udall and Gov. John Hickenlooper are encouraging both sides to reach a compromise that balances fair use and protection of the monument. (Udall's statement can be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/4gvdadt.)

A similar request was made in California in 2009 - a bike tour there had hoped to shut down the only road through Yosemite Valley for a race. That request was also turned down, because of concerns about environmental impacts and potential commercialization of special public places, says Nimkin.

"We need to draw the line at commercializing our national parks and recognize that they represent interests of all people, and that it's not a particular favorite of any one corporate or commercial interest."

Nimkin says if the cycling event is allowed as proposed in the Colorado National Monument, it could set a precedent for similar events in other parks. Ultimately, he believes the public would be the loser.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO