Badwater race now planned using alternate route outside Death Valley

The Badwater 135 Ultramarathon race will go on — just not in Death Valley National Park, where it was scheduled for July 21-23.

The park this week announced it was suspending spring and summer endurance events pending a safety review, which affected the Badwater event. The park will, however, accept applications for such events scheduled for Oct. 1 and beyond.

“This is not about Badwater,” park spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman said about the annual race that had begun at Badwater, Calif., the lowest point in the U.S., to the base of Mt. Whitney. “It’s about all the events in the park that draw up to 300 participants.”

The national park averages 10 large-scale bike races, marathons and other sporting events each year that draw about 2,500 competitors — and requests for more events have been pouring in.

Chipman says traffic control and safety for visitors as well as park employees tasked with monitoring the events are the reason for the action.


Chris Kostman of AdventureCorps in a statement this week blasted the moratorium, saying events should be allowed to continue while the safety review is underway. Kostman, who says he has organized 89 events in the park since 1990, plans to hold the Badwater 135 race and other events next year using alternate routes outside the park.

He also noted that his events bring more overnight guests to the Furnace Creek facilities than any other company. He estimated that in 2012 each Badwater 135 runner and support crew spent $9,379, bringing tourist dollars to Inyo County.

Chipman says the park doesn’t directly make money on such events, with permits costing $210 each. She said organizers cover the cost of a park employee required to monitor events.

The review by park safety officials as well as a U.S. Public Health and Service representative and experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is expected to be completed by summer.

The earliest the park will consider special use applications is Oct. 1, and event organizers will have to abide by whatever new rules become policy.

What those rules will be isn’t known, but the park posted a letter on its website this week to organizers who want to apply for special use permits. It says events won’t be allowed if they:

—Create an unacceptable impact on park resources or values.
—Are contrary to the purposes for which the park was established.
—Unreasonably disrupt the atmosphere of peace and tranquillity of wilderness, natural, historic or commemorative locations within the park.
—Unreasonably interfere with interpretive programs, visitor activities, visitor services, or NPS administrative activities.
—Substantially interfere with the operation of public facilities or the services of NPS concessioners or contractors.
—Create an unsafe or unhealthy environment for other visitors or employees.
—Result in conflict with other existing uses.

Chipman noted that hiking and bicycle tours run by commercial outfitters are not affected by the safety review.

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