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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Race Thrown Off Track by Government Shutdown

DENVER (CN) - The nation's top college cycling team cannot override the government shutdown to hold a mountain biking race on national land, a federal judge ruled.

Colorado Mesa University, which fancies itself "the 'number one' team in national collegiate cycling," sued the Department of the Interior on Friday to preserve a special recreation permit for its Maverick Mountain Bike Championship over the weekend.

"On October 1, 2013, the United States government shut down all federal agencies due to the inability of Congress to pass a budget bill," the school's complaint says. "As a result, all federal offices and federal agencies are closed, with the exception of certain essential services. The Grand Junction BLM Field Management Office is closed.

"Although furloughed, Katie Stevens, Field Office Manager of the Grand Junction BLM Field Office, notified CMU by telephone that the Special Recreational Permit is cancelled.

"The BLM cannot cancel the Special Recreation Permit. The terms of the Special Recreation Permit specifically state that cancellation may occur only 'if necessary to protect public resources, health, safety, the environment, or because of non-compliance with permit stipulations.' In this case, the reason stated by Katie Stevens for cancellation is the government shut down."

The university says that it has spent more than $10,000 and hundreds of working hours on the race.

"Not only has CMU invested significant time and money in the bike race event, it has invited college mountain biking teams to the race," the complaint says. "Numerous college and university teams from across the intermountain region have confirmed that they will have mountain bike teams in attendance at the race. These college teams are in transit to Grand Junction at the time of the filing of this complaint.

"The CMU bike race is important for college riders to compete in because it is one of a few sanctioned races remaining on the collegiate bike schedule where a rider can qualify for the national collegiate championship in three weeks. If this race is not held, it is likely that many college riders will not have the opportunity to compete at the national championships.

"The CMU bike race cannot simply be rescheduled to a following weekend. The BLM Special Recreation Permit is only for the time period October 4-7, 2013. CMU does not have a permit for another time and it would be highly unlikely that CMU could timely apply for and obtain a Special Recreation Permit for another weekend before the national championship event if the federal government re-opens for business."

Chief U.S. District Judge Marcia Krieger killed the school's bid for a last-minute injunction on the same day it was filed.

Colorado Mesa University, based in Grand Junction, posted an update on its website, noting that those portions of the race that were planned to take place on BLM land were canceled, but that an on-campus portion went ahead.

Races scheduled for the nearby Gunny Loop, Gunny Road, Gunnector and Free Lunch trail systems were canceled.

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