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Relevant thread on the Bike Forum: http://bikearlingtonforum.com/showthread.php?1931-Why-does-the-National-Park-Service-have-so-much-control-over-local-lands

I'd be surprised if NPS really *has* a clear standard - even just internally - for dealing with these kinds of applications.

Per Michael H.'s comment in the earlier thread, re: NPS not adhering to their own published rules & regs? I've definitely seen examples of that (see, e.g., the closing of the GW Parkway to bikes). However, forcing an agency like NPS to actually respect its own rules can take no small amount of time and resources. Even if there was a violation of NPS own rules in denying this permit, I can't imagine it would be worth the promoter's time to file against the NPS. Further, I presume their permit for the Nation's Tri in Sept. is still pending. That can't be something they'd want to risk.

While I wont comment specifically about the triathalon - last season did get out of hand. Between walk a thons and races and events, there was rarely a weekend when one could actually get cross the city. That gets to be a problem pretty quickly for a lot of reasons. While I get why its nice to have these events in the Nations Capital as a crowd drawer - they are simultaneously a tremendous headache - and they can be located somewhere that causes less of a problem (how about moving it over to the Chesapeake)

Of course, no running between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Because how can you run in seersucker?

Between the three tunnels under the mall and the four bridges to Virginia, there has to be some way to route these races so that several travel routes remain open for everyone else?

Well, they let CaBi onto the Mall and haven't beat up any pedicabbers for a few months that I'm aware of. They must have just missed being arbitrary [insert insult of your choice], and this was their first opportunity to regain their old swagger. :-\

The triathlon races usually do not block off all bridges leading into D.C. That's not even the reason that NPS is giving. Later in the day, I read that the NPS spokeswoman is claiming that the permit denial has to do with July 4 preparations. Huh?

The triathlon race would have taken place on June 17, two and a half weeks before Independence Day. That excuse is laughable. It does not take that long to set up the fireworks display. If this was such a problem, then how did everyone manage with the races taking place the last 3 years on the same weekend?

There is no justifiable reason for NPS to have the no-summer race rule at all. "Just because they feel like it" is not acceptable. I think it may be a nationwide rule that applies to all national parks, perhaps to protect the pristine nature of parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite.

But such a rule does not make any sense for small urban parks in D.C.

Besides the effect on those who had planned to participate in the race, the permit denial also has an effect on local hotels, restaurants and cultural/entertainment outlets. The Washington DC Triathlon is widely known around the world and attracts participants and their supporters from most states and many overseas countries. The economic harm to the local economy by denying the permit and forcing the cancellation of the race easily runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many people would have benefited, not just local triathletes and their friends and relatives.

Michael, I doubt that NPS has a nation-wide policy against races in the summer. This policy appears to specifically affect the Mall and perhaps GW Parkway. I would conjecture that the reason for the ban has something to do with large crowds in the summer. I don't think it's because of blocking bridges over the Potomac, since there is no reason that such blockages would cause more traffic congestion in the summer than during the rest of the year.

In addition, most "iconic" national parks like Yellowstone never host any races at all. They are not the sort of place that race organizers typically look to use as a venue, except for some trail races (and it would be foolish indeed to organize a trail race through Grizzley habitat in Yellowstone).

On the other hand, C&O Canal has some low-key summer races hosted by one of the local running clubs. And Greenbelt Park has summer evening bike races. Both of these are local NPS parks.

Note - I am not trying to defend the NPS "summer race ban" policy, just trying to clarify the likely scope and reason for it.

Wilbur, if the problem is too many races or runs, there is a simple way to limit that - limit the number of waivers to a set number and auction them off (let the market decide who gets them). Or have them compete on some other criteria. But this system is lacking in transparency.

Auctions? Washcycle, don't make me (and Wilbur, I bet) come over there.


Why wouldn't you put a major race in a place where there are transportation links, infrastructure, and services for that number of people? Marine Corps Marathon brings about 30,000 runners; Nations Tri was headed toward something like 6000; and Cherry Blossom is somewhere in the tens of thousands. You can't dump that many people in a rural area and expect anything good to happen.

Road space becomes a serious issue for large races. Two-lane country roads are a problem, leading to congestion or bona fide safety issues. It's more of a challenge for residents, too - locals have fewer alternative routes, and it's hard not to block people in when there's only one road out of town.

I've been to a small-town triathlon. It's great. If you have a few hundred participants, people are willing to camp, and everyone is okay with sharing two-lane country roads with live traffic. Won't work for a big race.

Here, there are plenty of alternative routes. Most big races stay around the Mall - among the major DC races, only the National/Rock N Roll Marathon (~10,000 runners) ventures out into the city proper.

National's this weekend, by the way. Actually, none of the races I named, which are the really big guns, happened during the summer. We have a pretty slow summer racing season because of our absurd weather. I suspect that the summertime events are a mix of parades, festivals, and small races.

Each July in Death Valley National Park:


The 4th of July prep almost makes sense. I remember being surprised that in early June last year the NPS had already installed the snow fences by Memorial Circle.

David R.

Hopkinton MA, a rural hamlet without transit, hosted 26,000 last April.

It can be done with planning.

The guy who founded the race seems sketchy. Maybe that's part of the problem? No excuse for lack of transparency from NPS, but it might help explain it. I did a couple of his DC Triathlons and they were really great, but after reading about his allegedly impersonating a police officer I never signed up again. Its a pretty serious charge for someone who is trying to get permits for a race like this from NPS.



Hopkington is on Rt 128/I-495 and the race is a point-to-point that finishes in the middle of Boston. That's like starting a race in Tyson's Corner, by the Beltway, and ending it on the Mall. It is not the same as an entirely rural event - nor, I suspect, is it something that many people will put up with for a less prominent event than the Boston Marathon.

I stand by my original point: the logistical challenges, disruption to residents, and course safety issues are magnified out in the countryside.

I drive a cones truck for a local race, as part of a little squadron of trucks and police cars that marks the end of a rolling road closure. Some of the driver misbehavior is quite spectacular. Holding a linear course is a real challenge, even for just five miles. It's much easier to take over loops in and around the Mall and the Potomac, where there are alternative routes.

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