AdventureCORPS Statement Regarding the 2014 Ban on Athletic Events Within Death Valley
As it stands now, there will be NO sporting events of any kind held within Death Valley National Park in 2014. That includes the five events we host there (CORPScamp Death Valley; Death Valley Century, Ultra Century, and Double Century – Spring and Fall editions; Furnace Creek 508; and Badwater 135 Ultramarathon), as well as other cycling and running events held under “special event permits” within our National Park.
Before you read further, please be assured that three of those events – CORPScamp, Badwater, and The 508 – WILL BE HELD in 2014 on alternate routes. Details below.
This dramatic turn of events is a result of the position being taken by Death Valley National Park (DVNP), as per their website:
Effective immediately Death Valley National Park will temporarily discontinue issuance of running and bicycling event permits. Future event permits will not be considered until a thorough safety evaluation of this type of activity has been completed.
This statement on the DVNP website was the only “notification” made to us regarding this dramatic turn of events. We received no direct communication of any kind that events would not be allowed within DVNP in 2014.
This “safety review” is not being undertaken as a result of any serious incident or accident within the Park. It is not being undertaken as a result of any significant number of complaints. It is being undertaken purely under the prerogative of a few DVNP employees, most notably the Park Superintendent, Kathleen Billings, who assumed leadership of the Park in March of 2013.
Besides the immediate impact to our, and other, events held annually within Death Valley National Park, this development is particularly unsettling for several reasons, including:
- It is unprecedented to place a one-year ban on existing sporting events within a National Park without any specific incident, accident, or complaint triggering such a drastic move. It is our contention that the events should be allowed to continue while the “safety review” unfolds.
- During a recent meeting with DVNP staff, they stated “other Parks are watching us” and “we might be setting a national precedent.” Even a one-year ban on events is NOT a precedent that anybody who enjoys cycling or running events within National Parks would support. There are successful and popular cycling and running events held within National Parks across America; they could all be in jeopardy now.
- This “safety review” process is essentially open-ended. DVNP staff stated that they hope to complete their analysis by the end of the March, except they “all have full-time jobs even without dealing with events and reviewing them.” After the analysis is complete, they intend to “send it up the chain” to the regional office in San Francisco, and then likely from there it would be transmitted to the national office in Washington, DC. Their best prediction is that the results and recommendations of this review would not be finalized until the end of September, 2014. As the Furnace Creek Ranch will not honor our special rooming blocks for our events under such a circumstance, this review effectively rules out any events happening in 2014 since we can not host events for which there is nowhere to stay.
- The final result of this “safety review” is completely unclear. It could be the case that the DVNP staff will determine that sporting events are not “an appropriate Park use” and thus the one-year ban could become a permanent ban. Other National Parks could then use the Death Valley precedent to ban events in Parks across the country. Alternatively, while the ban may not become permanent, the “safety review” could result in onerous, expensive, and perhaps effectively impossible or untenable additional requirements placed upon all would-be event organizers in Death Valley and elsewhere. Besides, Federal guidelines approved and mandated by the NPS already exist to govern and regulate both cycling events and running events held within National Parks. Why reinvent the wheel?
The history of these extremely safe and well-run events is the most accurate predictor of their safety, their relevance to the National Park Service purpose and mission, and their appropriateness for this particular Park:
- AdventureCORPS and Chris Kostman have hosted 89 events since 1990 under DVNP special event permits without ever being refused a permit by DVNP, the Department of Transportation, or Inyo County. 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.
- These events are an incredible economic boon to Inyo County, a remote county of 10,000 square miles with just 18,000 residents which is heavily dependent upon tourism dollars. AdventureCORPS brings more overnight guests to Furnace Creek than any other organization: Approximately 1,000 athletes and an additional 1,000 support crew members, event staff, volunteers, family, and friends come to Death Valley each year because of AdventureCORPS events. For the vast majority, it was only because of the draw of well-run AdventureCORPS events that they even first ventured to the Park. Now a high percentage of the participants join these events every year without fail.
- A survey of 2012 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon runners revealed that each runner and their support crew spend a combined average of $9379 to participate in the race and about 20% make additional trips to the Death Valley / Lone Pine region each year, for a total of over $1 million dollars in annual economic impact from just this one event. Nearly half of that money is spent in the region. The Inyo County Supervisors and Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce are extremely concerned about the economic impact of even a one-year ban on sporting events. Hotels, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops, and other businesses will be directly impacted. A wider view of the ban would indicate a negative impact on car rentals, airlines, and service providers to the events such as Liberty Ambulance in Ridgecrest, Subway in Pahrump, radio and satellite phone rental providers, t-shirt screeners, bicycle jersey manufacturers, buckle and medal manufacturers, and more. The ripple effect will be enormous and reverberate across the country.
- A survey of 2012 and 2013 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon runners demonstrated they raised, remarkably, over $665,000 for charitable causes in association with their participation in the 2012 and/or 2013 Badwater races. A ban on events will hit the bottom line of Challenged Athletes Foundation, Death Valley Natural History Association, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, MS Society, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and scores of other charitable organizations which are supported by participants in these events.
- Participants in Death Valley sporting events become tireless Park Advocates because of their intimate experience of, and appreciation for, this dramatic landscape and American treasure. They tell their friends about the Park, post widely on the Internet about their experience, support the Death Valley Natural History Association, and become regular visitors. In a time of dwindling government funding for the National Park Service, our athletes are exactly the kind of people that the NPS desperately needs spending money within the Parks and extolling their critical importance to their neighbors and their House Representatives, Senators, and other government officials. Why slam the door on the best people the Parks have in their court?
For a very detailed history of AdventureCORPS events held within Death Valley National Park, along with their economic, philanthropic, and publicity impact, and much more, visit the top of this current page.
We do not claim any “right” to host these events; we acknowledge freely that it is a privilege to host special events within a National Park. We also do not deny the need for a legitimate “safety review” of the events and their potential for impact upon other Park visitors. In fact, we have proposed numerous mitigation efforts which will help ensure that the long-standing impeccable safety record of all AdventureCORPS events remains intact and is further enhanced.
Our primary concern is two-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 onerous, expensive, and perhaps effectively impossible or untenable additional requirements placed upon all would-be event organizers.
If you feel strongly about this matter and wish to have your voice heard, we encourage you to direct your letters via US Postal Service to the following:
Senator Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Barbara Boxer
112 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Representative Col. Paul Cook (Ret.)
8th Congressional District
1222 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Even if you do not live in California, please do not hesitate to write to the California Senators and Congressman; this state’s economy is largely built upon tourism and thus all our elected officials appreciate the hard-earned dollars spent here by AdventureCORPS athletes from across the continent and around the world.
Beyond that, we ask for your support and encourage you to join us for one or more of the awesome events we will be hosting in 2014. All will feature a world-class setting, an epic route, the highest AdventureCORPS standards of event production, and the sportsmanship, camaraderie, and “family reunion” atmosphere that are the hallmarks of all our events.
CORPScamp Santa Monica Mountains
Four-day cycling camp with yoga in Westlake Village, CA
Badwater® Cape Fear
Brand new, inaugural 50km / 51-mile ultrarunning race on Bald Head Island, NC
Brand new, inaugural two-day Badwater “Fun Fest” with runs, movie night, lectures, and more in Borrego Springs, CA
Badwater® Salton Sea
2nd annual 81-mile ultrarunning race from Salton Sea to Palomoar Mountain. All entrants enter and run together (not relay) as teams of three.
Inaugural new 308-mile ultracycling race based upon the abbreviated 508 held this year from Santa Clarita to Trona and back.
Badwater® 135 Ultramarathon
The new and improved 135-Mile World Championship event will feature an incredible new route based in Lone Pine, CA. Stay tuned for details about this remarkable route which features over 19,000 feet of elevation gain, two dramatic ascents into the Sierra Nevada, and a 15-mile dirt road trek to an authentic ghost town. All who finish the full 135 miles in 2014 will be guaranteed entry in the 2015 edition!
The 31st anniversary edition of “the toughest 48 hours in sport” will be held in a dramatic new venue with a world-class route. All who finish in any category will be guaranteed entry in the 2015 edition. Details will be revealed in January.
We thank you for your support and look forward to seeing you “out there” in 2014, and beyond! We wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
Yours in sport,
Chief Adventure Officer and Race Director
638 Lindero Canyon Rd #311
Oak Park, CA 91377 USA