Event organizers who operate charity bike rides and bike races in the Death Valley National Park learned just before Christmas that no new permits for such sporting events will be issued at the park in 2014.
The park service is citing safety concerns and a need to study such sporting events before issuing permits for such events in the future. No crashes or injuries related to traffic and participants, however, were noted in the park service announcement.
At least 10 such sporting events are scheduled every year in the Death Valley National Park, drawing as many as 2,500 participants per year.
The video on the Furnace Creek 508 explains how important these events are to competitors.
AdventureCORPS is probably the largest organizer using the park, hosting five bicycling or running events a year that draw more than 2,000 competitors and support crews to the surrounding community. Owner Chris Kostman says three of those — Furnace Creek 508, Badwater 135 Ultramarathon and CORPScamp Death Valley will be moved to other venues.
“There have been no deaths, no car crashes, no citations issued, and only a few evacuations by ambulance after literally millions of miles covered on foot or by bike by event participants,” Kostman told the Pahrump Valley Times.
Strongly objecting to the permit hiatus, Kostman writes at his AdventureCORPS website:
“Our primary concern is three-fold: first, the economic impact and associated loss of unique Death Valley National Park experiences in 2014 due to the moratorium on the events is devastating to local businesses and athletes alike; secondly, there is the high potential that this “safety review” could result in an outright ban of such events within Death Valley National Park and potentially across the entire National Park System; third, if an outright ban is not implemented, onerous, expensive, and perhaps effectively impossible or untenable additional requirements may be placed upon all would-be event organizers, creating the equivalent of a ban.”
Also commenting to the Pahrump Valley Times was Richard Jones, regional manager for the lodge provider in the area:
“It’s a loss of income to our property. More importantly it’s a piece of the fabric of Death Valley. It appears these events have been stalled and it does not look like they will be here next year and it affects a lot of people up the line and into Lone Pine and some of the other gateway communities and it affects little people. It is really regrettable.”
Smaller groups using the Death Valley National Park are not affected by the moratorium.
Arlen Hall, tour director for Adventure Cycling Association, said its four van-supported Death Valley Loops scheduled for this spring are not affected.
“Our tours are small, up to 15 persons, including the leaders and are not considered ‘sporting events’, ‘events’ or ‘charity rides’ by DVNP definitions.”
A letter from park superintendent Kathy Billings says the park “placed a temporary moratorium on issuing special use permits for sporting events within Death Valley while a safety assessment is conducted on these types of events.”
“Over the past few years, numerous safety risks and issues have been observed by park staff and park visitors during sporting events on Death Valley roads. This past year, multiple near misses between event participants and park visitors in vehicles were observed.
“Park employees who monitor these events and respond to emergency situations caused by the events are exposed to unsafe situations due to extreme weather conditions and the location of events on high speed highways (55-65 mph speed limits). A safety assessment is being conducted on the effects of these types of events on visitors, participants and employee safety.
“The purpose of the safety assessment at Death Valley National Park is to identify any safety risks caused by these events and determine if there are actions that can be taken to mitigate the risks.”
Let’s hope these cyclists and runners are allowed to return to the park soon.