Event restrictions upset officials

Suzi Dennett, Death Valley Chamber of Commerce President, spoke of the major loss of business revenue and  lack of consideration by DVNP staff in coming up with new rules for special events.

Suzi Dennett, Death Valley Chamber of Commerce President, spoke of the major loss of business revenue and lack of consideration by DVNP staff in coming up with new rules for special events.

Death Valley National Park Staff Tell Special Event Organizers to Take a Hike

By Charles James

Thanks to the actions of just a few National Park Service employees in Death Valley National Park, new Special Event Permit rules have been implemented as a result of a safety review ordered by Park Superintendent Kathy Billings last year. The Inyo County Board of Supervisors were dismayed to learn of the new changes at a recent board meeting when it was announced by Billings as “A done document.”

The result of the safety review, during which the park was closed to events, has seriously changed the way running and biking events can now be held inside the park.

According to a press release last December from AdventureCORPS, a major extreme athlete event provider in the park, which has hosted the world-famous Badwater Ultramarathon in the park for 37 years without incident, stated that the changes were made “despite there never having been a major illness or this ‘safety review’… 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.”

That’s right: there was no long list of complaints or record of injuries in the park during special events. AdventureCORPS, in its statement said “It was 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.”

The major stakeholders, which include Inyo County, the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce and AdventureCORPS, were deliberately excluded from the process according to Park Superintendent Billings at the direction of an unnamed supervisor from the National Park Service despite assurances given to the Supervisors while in Washington last February during a meeting with National Park Service Deputy Director Christina Goldfuss. She assured them that the new permitting process would be open and the county would have an opportunity to participate.

Furthermore, Billings admitted that the process chosen was also designed specifically to exclude public comment, at one point telling the Supervisors that, “Having events in the park is a privilege, not a right.” The new rules state that any summertime events in the park would be cancelled if temperatures rise to 110°F and that special events are to be held during a full moon to preserve the park’s famously dark skies.

The rules were made solely by park service staff under the hypothetical approach of “What if?” and not based on any empirical data or evidence from the park itself. The result was a “wish list” by park service staff being inflicted on unsuspecting stakeholders that use the park to stage events. It is estimated that the park closure while the “safety review” was being conducted, and the implementation of the new regulations, has already cost the County and local Death Valley business owners, who are struggling to stay afloat, hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential losses which they can ill-afford.

The Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce said that the Badwater Ultra Marathon alone was responsible for contributing $1.2 million to local communities each year. Suzi Dennet, the Executive Director of the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, told the Inyo Supervisors that she and chamber members were very upset about how the safety review was conducted. It is especially disturbing to be ignored, especially as they have always tried to work closely with the park’s staff to provide the best services to park visitors.

The new rules may also result in a loss to Inyo County through lessened Transient Occupancy Tax income. It is the County that maintains many of the roads that lead into the park.

After creating the current fiasco by ignoring everyone but her own park staff, Park Superintendent Billings is leaving the park service and a new job announcement for her replacement has already been posted.

Eighth Congressional District Congressman Paul Cook’s office was contacted for comment two weeks ago about the situation, but as of this writing has not responded. Local county residents can contact the congressman by calling his Washington office at (202) 225-5861 or visiting his official website at http://cook.house.gov, to express their concerns.

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Death Valley Chamber
Death Valley Chamber
7 years ago

Both the National Park Service and AdventureCORPS are valued members of the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce. It should be clarified that the Chamber is NOT now, nor were we ever, upset with DVNP staff. Nor did we experience a “lack of consideration on the part of DVNP staff”. In… Read more »

Death Valley Chamber
Death Valley Chamber
7 years ago

The caption beneath the photo is incorrect. Suzi Dennett is the Executive Director of the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce, not the President. The President is Nancy Good.

trackback
Report: Businesses Lose Money Over Death Valley ChangesBike Marathon | Bike Marathon
7 years ago

[…] to Sierra Wave, the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce said the local economy typically gets a $1.2 million boost […]

SoCalliion
SoCalliion
7 years ago

Geez people, the Badwater race is in the dead of summer when few people want to go to Death Valley. Plus it doesn’t even “shut down” the park to the few non-participants that care to venture out in the heat. I can see a need to put some checks in… Read more »

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

So long as Bad Water stays at 282 feet below sea level and Mt Whitney stays at 14,497 feet above sea level. They will be the lowest and highest elevations in the 48 states. People will challenge them selves to make it from one to the other. There is nowhere… Read more »

LocalT
LocalT
7 years ago

Wayne, You are completely uniformed and ignorant to the facts pertaining to the types of special events held in Death Valley in years past. These events are not typically open to the general public for participation. For example, The Badwater Ultramarathon is an invitational race featuring some of the greatest… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  LocalT

So we the taxpayer get to pay our hard earned and have our parks roads clogged with traffic to provide a venue for a private invitation only event? That alone is enough for me to say to them go find someplace else to run. The American taxpayer isn’t funding that… Read more »

LocalT
LocalT
7 years ago

Desert Tortoise, If you’ve ever been in the park during these events you would know that roads aren’t “clogged”. These types of races don’t call for road closures and they only create minor encroachments on the roadways. Furthermore, soon after the race events begin, participants quickly become spaced out. It’s… Read more »

Wayne Deja
Wayne Deja
7 years ago

Desert Tortoise….Be careful what you say there…. If LocalT happens to disagree with you he’s bound to get on his rude high-horse and say your uninformed and ignorant….That said,I agree with you….Some think the one and only thing that should matter when it comes to our land and environment is… Read more »

LocalT
LocalT
7 years ago
Reply to  Wayne Deja

Wayne, I don’t believe my comments have been rude nor did I intend for them to be. Uninformed and ignorant are plain adjectives in the context I used them in. You and DT seem to be uninformed and ignorant on this issue. The points you use to support your argument… Read more »

sugarmagnolia
sugarmagnolia
7 years ago

I’m not sure you understand the issues DT, no-one is stopped from using the park during these events….nor does the Park service have any major responsibilities during the event. They do spend time ensuring that the group understands the terms of their permit and can meet those terms. And I’m… Read more »

Karma
Karma
7 years ago

Well Inyo, how does a little taste of your own arrogance feel. You have been spouting “done Deals” and such for the public good for to long now. How about stepping back a bit and reevaluating how your interacting with the public and other agency’s. BEFORE you are “dismayed” at… Read more »

Wayne Deja
Wayne Deja
7 years ago

The more I read and think about this event being cancelled,the more I think it might be a good idea….reason being,maybe no injuries,deaths or major problems over the years…BUT….things all seem a lot different than they used to be,with a LOT of things nowdays…A good example is those 15 or… Read more »

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Daily News, Wed, Nov 12
7 years ago

[…] the lady who implemented the new rules that outlawed Badwater is leaving the agency.  Doesn’t sound like she’ll get much of a goodbye party until the door is closed on her […]

Sensible
Sensible
7 years ago

Why should Inyo County be involved? They admit to not following safety measures for their employees, so who are they to judge? They got their money from taxes with the event being held in Lone Pine, PLUS the park’s hotels filled up all summer with people paying the full room… Read more »

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

With the new rule that you can’t run events if the temp gets to 110deg. Then the park should be shut down to everyone at 110deg. The park employees should all go home. Then the park would only be open to people at their own risk. That is how it… Read more »

sugarmagnolia
sugarmagnolia
7 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Also, that would mean the participants would have traveled for the event too and possibly even started the event and then have to stop. Not so fun to spend money and take the time to travel for an event just to have it canceled. THis really makes no sense. DVNP… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  sugarmagnolia

You should walk a mile in a Park Rangers boots. They love the parks they care for, love them deeply and know them intimately in ways most people never will. But they see the public come up on the weekend to party, to abandon junk cars, leave bottles and cans… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago

Couldn’t agree more DT

Now try to remember that advice the next time you make wholesale accusations about law enforcement officers. Perahps you should walk a mile in their shoes.

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago

I have. I wanted very much to be a Chippie once. Now I am deeply glad I didn’t pursue it and became a Navy pilot instead. Chippies used to be a premier law enforcement agency. Now? They are rapidly becoming as bad as LAPD in the bad old days of… Read more »

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago

Sounds like sour grapes. And “wanting to be a chippie once” is not the same thing as walking a mile in their shoes – not even close. That aside, I’ve had a couple of negative experiences with park rangers over the years. Using your logic I could just berate ALL… Read more »

Mark
Mark
7 years ago

I might have considered being a fireman in the early 80’s but they weren’t hiring white guys at that time.

I should be able to sue someone for being discriminated against during those times

sugar magnolia
sugar magnolia
7 years ago

I’ve spent many a night in various places in DVNP, never have I seen someone behave in the way you describe. (although that’s probably because I don’t spend too many nights in the large developed campgrounds). But that behavior you describe, which would rightfully be detested by park personnel, is… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  sugar magnolia

It is the big developed camp grounds I refer to. I used to eat breakfast while out on weekend motorcycle rides at a little joint that rangers also frequently ate. You hear their war stories about the mayhem in the big campgrounds and how angry it makes them to have… Read more »

Eastside Bum
Eastside Bum
7 years ago

While I sympathize with the event organizers and the LP Chamber of commerce, the real reasons for the cancellations “could” be for the following reasons: *The Park Service is tired of putting additional responsibilities on their staff every year. *The budget for the staff covering the event has decreased. *The… Read more »

chris
chris
7 years ago

Inyo County should have been involved!

Tinner
Tinner
7 years ago

Our liability laws are killing this country, they drive the prices of so much up. How much of a lift ticket goes toward liability insurance? It seems the only individuals who benefit from those laws are lawyers and others in the legal system. I think Kathy Billings must have attended… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago
Reply to  Tinner

Tinner: Very good! Right in the middle of the Right Wing Nut Echo Machine.

Tinner
Tinner
7 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

That’s interesting some people I meet assume I’m a dem liberal.

Trouble
Trouble
7 years ago
Reply to  Tinner

Tinner you are so far off it’s scary. You can’t get a attorney to handle any liability case in this state any more. Why, because the insurance industry and doctors teamed up with the lobbyist to make sure the little guy would never win enough to cover thier attroney fees… Read more »

Tinner
Tinner
7 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

“You can’t get a attorney”?
I think you have forgotten what country you are in.

Trouble
Trouble
7 years ago
Reply to  Tinner

Tinner-There is a Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollar cap on all medical malpractice suits. That’s total for doctor bills, attorneys and the victim. My five day stay in the hospital broke two hundred thou. That cap was put in place in the 70″s. Don’t believe all that crap you… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

That much is true. Lawyers will not take a case on a contingency unless in their estimation the amount of the settlement will pay them for their effort, pay for expert witnesses, court costs, depositions, etc. For complex medical malpractice cases in particular the liability cap in California has effectively… Read more »

sierra slugger
sierra slugger
7 years ago

It’s amazing how much power officials really have. Kathy Billings signed the document on 08/11/2014 Under Discretionary Authority then leaves. Nice job— (NOT) Below is a link to the Nation Park Service Superintendents Compendium of designations, Closures. Permit requirements, and other restrictions imposed The only things you don’t need a… Read more »