Death Valley National Park halts Badwater 135 race, endurance events

In this July 23, 2007, photo, Valmir Nunes of Brazil runs in the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon in Death Valley. The national park is suspending permits for endurance events, citing safety concerns.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Death Valley National Park suspended permits for the iconic Badwater 135 Ultramarathon and other running and bicycling endurance events in the park until officials can complete a safety review, a statement on the park’s website said Monday.

AdventureCorps organizes the annual Badwater 135m which had been scheduled for July 21-23. Runners start in Badwater, the lowest point in the United States, and survive 135 rugged desert miles to climb to the base of Mt. Whitney at more than 8,000 feet in elevation.

But now the race and other endurance events might be over.

The park’s website said Monday: “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. Activities that already have a fully-executed permit will go on as planned. Our website will be updated once we have completed this safety evaluation.”


Park Service spokeswoman Cheryl Chipman told radio station KPCC-FM that traffic, health and environmental hazards prompted the action. “We don’t want to wait till we have a death or an accident or a mass casualty of some kind,” she told KPCC.

Aside from Badwater 135, AdventureCorps had planned no less than six endurance races in 2014. Company head Chris Kostman said in a statement Monday that three of the events -- including Badwater 135 -- would be held on alternate routes.

Kostman urged people to protest the moratorium on races by contacting Congress and Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “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,” Kostman said. “It is our contention that the events should be allowed to continue while the ‘safety review’ unfolds.”

The 2000 documentary film “Running on the Sun” provided a glimpse into the contenders and the course of what has been billed as one of the nation’s toughest races.
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