January 3, 2016
Ken Mabery, Superintendent
Colorado National Monument
1750 Rim Rock Drive
Fruita, CO 81521-0001
Dear Superintendent Mabery:
First of all, we wish you a Happy New Year and congratulate you on your new assignment as Superintendent of Colorado National Monument (Monument). Many of our retired colleagues enjoyed their assignments at the Monument and neighboring park areas. I am writing on behalf of many of them and more than 1100 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition). As you know, we are a non-profit organization comprised mainly of retirees from the National Park Service (NPS). For more than a decade, we have advocated for the protection of our national parks.
The purpose of this letter is to express our concern about a recent article by Gary Harmon printed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Much of his story was a nice introduction of you to their readership. However, several of our members took note of the words in the first paragraph which seemed to express your intentions that “there is some room to discuss the potential of a competitive bicycle race on Colorado National Monument – a goal that has eluded supporters of such a contest for years.”
We fully understand that any new superintendent needs to introduce him or herself as an open-minded decision-maker, one who seeks to integrate park and community goals. We also know from painful experience that local journalists may sometimes write what they want to hear rather than what was actually said. That said, it does appear that a difficult controversy may have been re-opened. We believe that it is critical that you close this discussion as soon as possible with a reaffirmation of the previously-made decision to deny the proposal to conduct a stage of a professional cycling race in the Monument.
The Coalition has been deeply engaged in this issue for over five years. We fully supported the decision to deny the application for a special use permit to stage a portion of the race in the Monument contained in a letter from then-Superintendent Joan Anzelmo dated December 16, 2010. That letter provided detailed reasons why such a denial was required by existing laws, park regulations, and carefully outlined provisions set forth in NPS Management Policies 2006.
On February 20, 2011, then-Chair of the Executive Council of the Coalition, Rick Smith, signed a letter to the editor of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel declaring our support of this decision.
On March 21, 2011, the NPS issued a news release announcing that Director Jarvis had affirmed the decision by Superintendent Anzelmo to deny the request by the Quiznos Pro Challenge to conduct a stage of the bike race in the Monument. That release offered the following quote from Director Jarvis:
“Closing the park to accommodate the needs of a commercial bike race goes against our management policies, would adversely impact park resources, and would deny access to other visitors…Federal law and NPS policy restrict commercial activities in national parks to those that are ‘necessary and appropriate’ to park purposes. This bike race is neither necessary nor appropriate to the Park. Superintendent Anzelmo made the right call.”
On April, 22, 2011, Superintendent Anzelmo sent a letter to John Hopkins, Grand Junction Pro Cycling Local Organizing Committee (LOC), in which she responded to a letter of April 20 sent by Wendy Weinberg asking about the NPS response to a second proposal by the Grand Junction LOC. This letter acknowledged appeals by the Grand Junction LOC to Governor Hickenlooper and Senator Udall to convene meetings with then-NPS Regional Director John Wessels to further discuss the request for a permit. Such meetings were, in fact, arranged. And the outcome was the same. Regional Director Wessels responded by reaffirming the decision to deny the permit previously made at key levels of the NPS.
The Coalition has long strongly supported these actions by Superintendent Anzelmo and senior leaders in the NPS because this decision is the right one for the Monument. However, such decisions are also important for the purpose of consistency throughout the National Park System. In 2010, a similar request to stage part of a professional bike race in Yosemite National Park was denied. Many of our retired and currently working colleagues have also faced the challenge of making decisions to deny all manner of commercial events in our parks for the same reasons. And, at the moment, the Superintendent of Zion is considering a request that a portion of a commercial bike race in Utah be allowed in that very popular national park. Part of our advocacy is to make every effort to assure consistency in decisions that reflect the goals and values of parks as expressed in law, regulation, and policy. In this case, we are not aware of any changes in applicable NPS management policies that would justify a reassessment of the previous decision.
Again, we understand and support the efforts of all superintendents to create a positive relationship between a park and neighboring communities. However, our experiences in this arena have taught us caution, and the knowledge that such efforts have to be careful and wise. Re-opening discussions about controversies that have long been settled by tough decisions made at all levels of the organization will likely create unrealistic expectations that cannot be fulfilled and will almost certainly result in a bad outcome.
Chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
cc: NPS Director Jon Jarvis
NPS Intermountain Regional Director Sue Masica