Much hoopla has been thrown around concerning the new Quiznos Pro Challenge bicycle race series, to begin this coming August at several locations across Colorado. Grand Junction is not one of those locations this year, but there are several local residents making up a race committee that have petitioned the Colorado National Monument for permission to run one of these races through the Monument in 2012.
Apparently, the cycling community has nostalgic memories of bike races through the Monument in the 1980’s. For those who are unfamiliar, the 1985 film American Flyers has some impressive race scenes through the park along Rim Rock Drive.
Initial attendance estimates reported by the Sentinel on November 5 quoted one of the organizing committee members as stating “We could get 50,000 people up the east side of the monument. This is JUCO times 10 easily.” Hopefully, they didn’t get these estimates from the business planners of their name sponsor; Quiznos had two restaurants open and close in GJ within the span of a few years.
The event and emergency planning sections of my brain got jump-started at about that point, trying to imagine a number roughly equal to the entire population of Grand Junction lined up along Rim Rock Drive, and wondering where their cars will go, how services would be provided (such as porta-potties), EMS response issues, and transportation to and from parking areas.
This led me to question the veracity and logic behind the above estimate; was this truly realistic, or just an exercise in hyperbole to try and get local business interests fired up about the events? I’m personally weighing what’s a more attractive proposition; standing in Grand Valley summer heat waiting for a fleeting glimpse at the leaders and the peloton as they pass, or watch it on cable in the comfort of my living room, likely with aerial coverage of the entire race?
Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo and her staff apparently had similar thoughts, which may have contributed to their decision last week to deny the permit application submitted by the organizing committee, who along with the likely participation of the business community turned to the Daily Sentinel editorial page for help.
In a paywalled editorial in the December 23rd edition, the Sentinel struck a somewhat conciliatory tone between the statutory responsibilities of Ms. Anzelmo and the supposedly clear advantages to all of us GJ locals to having a pro bicycle event in town. The Sentinel did quite a bit of research regarding federal regulations that govern events such as this in National Park Service areas, and arrived at conclusions such as the following:
“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.”
I’m still wondering how you “tailor” the event in such a way. If the estimates of attendance are somehow met, and the top of the monument is restricted, perhaps they’ll attempt to make that area available for VIPs only. Not necessarily in keeping with the public access aspects of the park, however. And what’s this about a “religious experience”? Are we somehow violating the separation of church and state here? 😉
If all of this can somehow fall into place sometime soon, Grand Junction will get a major bike race with some serious TV and movie production values, especially if they use a helicopter to follow the race. The Sentinel editorial called this “soft marketing”. Lots of people stand to make money; the expertise and energy of many volunteer and youth organizations will likely be leveraged, and the community will largely be happy with the result.
However, those who toil in relative anonymity in the emergency services, including communications, planning, and emergency management personnel, stand to be faced with a daunting task should this race go forward. Is it something that stands to create too heavy a burden for locals, requiring a multi-jurisdictional response, similar to when Vail hosts a World Cup skiing event?
Perhaps the Monument is giving us a little sneak preview of how they plan on managing crowds and a potentially major public event. They’re inviting all of us up to there to watch fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Perhaps a dry run, even if it’s at night in the dead of winter, might just help gauge how much logistical support will be needed to properly manage the event.
Rest assured that if the weather’s good, people in the Grand Valley will flock to fireworks. I hope that the Monument gets a good idea of exactly what their capabilities are. Let’s just say I’ll be celebrating somewhere else that night.
Leslie and I tried snowboarding today at Powderhorn. We never made it to any slope, but the lesson in the practice bowls was enough to generate both laughs as well as several aches and pains. Evan worked up there today as well; everyone except me is asleep or in bed. It was a good day, and the staff at Powderhorn provided excellent, patient instruction and a quality experience, which is critical with an activity as expensive as theirs. Many thanks to them.
Have a good rest of the week.