January 4, 2020
Superintendent Craig Kenkel
National Park Service
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
15610 Vaughn Road
Brecksville, OH 44141
Dear Superintendent Kenkel:
I am writing to you on behalf of over 1,700 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition).The Coalition is a non-profit organization composed of retired, former, or current employees of the National Park Service (NPS). The Coalition studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation of America’s National Park System. As a group we collectively represent nearly 40,000 years of experience managing and protecting America’s most precious and important natural and historic resources. Among our members are former directors, regional directors, superintendents, resource specialists, rangers, maintenance and administrative staff, and a full array of other former employees, volunteers, and supporters.
We are very concerned about the NPS decision to allow the use of electrical bicycles (“ebikes”) on designated bike trails at Cuyahoga Valley National Park (park), as well as at other units of the National Park Service, one that is in conflict with existing NPS regulations at 36 CFR § 1.4. We will limit our comments below to this threshold issue.
- We strongly object to the park’s misrepresentation of the legal status of ebike use in units of the National Park System– On the park’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website for the project, the opening paragraph states:
In September, the National Park Service (NPS) implemented new regulations on bicycle use in National Parks. These new regulations allow three classes of electric bikes (e-bikes) to be used on the same trails as traditional bikes (emphasis added to “regulations”).
This statement (that NPS has implemented new “regulations” that “allow three classes of electric bikes to be used on the same trails as traditional bikes”) is grossly misleading to the public and legally incorrect. The fact is that NPS issued a new “policy”on ebike use WITHOUT undertaking the rulemaking necessary to amend existing NPS “regulations” defining bicycle use in parks. As indicated on the “NPS Fundamentals: Law and Policy” website under the heading of “General Hierarchy of Authorities,” Interior Department Policies (such as Secretarial Order 3376) have a lower level of authority than a regulation. In plain terms, a “policy” does not and cannot trump a “regulation”; yet NPS is taking actions to implement a new ebike “policy” that is in conflict with its own “regulations.”
- Because ebikes do NOT meet the NPS regulatory definition of “bicycle,” ebikes can NOT legally be allowed on designated bicycle trails in parks unless NPS amends that definition through the rulemaking process – NPS general regulation 36 CFR § 1.4, which applies to ALL units of the National Park System, states: “Bicyclemeans every device propelled solely by human power (emphasis added) upon which a person or persons may ride on land, having one, two, or more wheels, except a manual wheelchair.” Obviously, ebikes are NOT “propelled solely by human power” as required under the definition. As a result, even the so-called “pedal assist” (Class 1) ebikes involve motor-assisted propulsion and are therefore precluded on “bicycle” trails by virtue of the above NPS definition. It simply is not appropriate for NPS to attempt to authorize an activity (ebike use) via superintendent compendiums when that activity is clearly in conflict with existing NPS regulations (the definition of “bicycle” in the CFR).
- The NPS, in general, and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, specifically, should suspend implementation of its ebike policy until NPS completes the rulemaking process necessary to amend its service-wide definition of “bicycle” – In our opinion NPS has no legitimate defense for not complying with its own definition of “bicycle” in the CFR; and it is not surprising that NPS has already been sued over its premature implementation of the new ebike policy. We urge NPS to suspend implementation of the ebike policy on a service-wide basis until NPS has completed the proper rulemaking process necessary to amend the general regulations. This process should include opportunities for public comment and an appropriate level of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance. Continued implementation of the legally questionable policy will only invite further legal action.
We appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important issue.
Philip A. Francis, Jr., Chair
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
201 I Street, NE #805, Washington, DC 20002
Herbert Frost, Midwest Regional Director, National Park Service
David Vela, Acting Director, National Park Service