The National Park Service has announced that it is canceling all cycling and running events for the coming year in Death Valley, pending a safety review. While I am all for ensuring that all endurance events – especially those as challenging as the races that take place in that extreme environment – are conducted in a safe manner, it seems heavy-handed to simply cancel these historic events as the review process takes place. While I have never run in the famous Badwater 135-mile ultra, the pubic has clearly been fascinated by the determination and effort required by runners to conquer the course, as evidenced by the many movies, books, and articles that have been produced about it. I have been privileged to ride in the Death Valley Double Century twice, and those were two of the most memorable days of my racing career.
We can only guess what prompted this sudden decision, since there haven’t been any recent problems involving these events. In fact – as opposed to many big-city marathons – the Badwater Ultra has yet to suffer a single fatality.
My fear, of course, is that this “safety review” is a first step towards a limitation or ban on such events in Death Valley and other National parks as well. Let’s remind the NPS – and our congressional representatives – that the parks belong to us, for our shared and safe enjoyment, and not the NPS.
For more information, see http://news.yahoo.com/death-valley-puts-brakes-running-cycling-races-222809589–spt.html