DENVER (AP) — The National Park Service said Tuesday it won't issue a permit to have a stage of the 2013 USA Pro Cycling Challenge run through part of Colorado National Monument in western Colorado.
Race organizers haven't formally started looking at possible locations for 2013 yet, but a group of Grand Junction boosters has been trying since 2010 to bring the Colorado race and its elite competitors to town. The Park Service has rejected previous requests by the Grand Junction Local Organizing Committee for a permit for a cycling race through the monument's plateaus and canyons, prompting the committee to revise its proposals and try again.
Monument Superintendent Lisa Eckert and Park Service Intermountain Region Director John Wessels said in a letter Tuesday that running the race on Rim Rock Drive through the monument would conflict with park management policies, including a prohibition on activities that would impair park resources or interfere with enjoyment of the park by future generations.
"We were very disappointed," said John Hopkins, a co-chair of the local organizing committee. "We're absolutely committed to still getting a stage of the USA Pro Challenge in 2013. Colorado National Monument provides a unique setting and has a history of bicycle racing, but we do have other routes."
The monument once hosted part of the Coors Classic cycling races in the 1980s, but park management policies since then have changed, said Rick Frost, a spokesman for the National Park Service.
The policies prevent officials from issuing special use permits for a for-profit event with prizes that are more than nominal.
They allow approval of events only if they have a meaningful association with the park and help visitors better understand the monument. Eckert and Wessels said race spectators would be drawn to the contest rather than the monument.
Park officials also were concerned the race would close four miles of Rim Rock Drive. "When people come from Ohio, Oregon or Iowa, they expect it to be open so they can enjoy it," Frost said.
"A number of community-sponsored events take place in the park, and we enjoy that," Frost said. "Unfortunately this was an event where the conflicts were such that we couldn't issue permit."
Elsewhere, Yosemite National Park has declined to host the Tour of California, Wessels and Eckert said.
The 2012 USA Pro Challenge begins Monday in Durango and ends Aug. 26 in Denver.