June 9 would be an interesting date for next year's race (if there is a 2013 race). Or in July, after the Folklife Festival has wrapped up. Yes, it will be hot, but it's an Olympic-distance race, not an Ironman. Beginners will likely register for the sprint anyway. Besides, it's going to be a hot race whether it's in June or July.
Nice work reading over the Code of Federal Regulations. The statement from the NPS rep alone would lead us to believe all of June was off limits. It makes more sense now for Komen not to be denied considering they only have veto power over the last 3 weeks of June and first week of July.
However, I would love to know specifically why the decided to use the veto power this year. I can't imagine it actually messes up with prep for the 4th. It seems like a bad excuse to me.
NPS claims that they notified Washington DC Triathlon over a month ago in writing that the permit could not be issued and notified them orally even before that.
As I was thinking about this today, I really feel bad for the NTP people. I was NTP last year and my first tri ever was PeasantMan, which was a great learning experience in a friendly environment. But I got really hooked after the DC Tri. It is just an amazing spectacle to rack you bike the night before and see the zillion of bikes, flood lights and the sheer scale of the race. And co-workers are suitably impressed with swimming in the Potomac!! The magnitude of that race just can't be duplicated with a lower key substitute. It's a shame.
I didn't have a great opinion of NPS after they ticketed bikers running the stop sign at Hains Point, or when they closed the finish line and cut the power to the timing clock at the 2009 Potomac River Marathon as soon as the number of runners in the permit crossed the line (disappointing 100 runners who then finished but had no time to send to Boston). So I'm really not surprised by this latest dis, but it is disappointing just the same.
I just saw the following message on the Washington DC Triathlon facebook page: "Hello Fans, due to the fact the Washington DC Triathlon will no longer take place in the future, we will be disabling this Facebook page on May 2. Thank you for your past support of triathlon in Washington DC."
I was under the impression that the race was just being cancelled this year... and there was hope it would get its permit back next year. From what I read on facebook, it appaers it may be gone forever? Does anyone have any insight on this?
It was rumored that it would pulled completely given that WSEM had to apply each year for an exemption to the Park rules to hold the Washington DC Triathlon. I'm not surprised that it became official.
I was hoping we'd be able to communicate this to our members first but was waiting for final confirmation from WSEM before doing so. Yes this is true, WSEM will no longer be offering the June race.
It's a sad day for the sport of triathlon in DC.
President, DC Tri Club
This is really bad news. A sad day for the race, our club, the Achieve Kids Triathlon, and everyone who enjoys swimming, biking, and running :-(
Is there any chance we can get the Washington DC Triathlon to replace the Nations Triathlon? In my opinion, the Washington DC Triathlon is superior to the Nations Triathlon in several ways: 1) it offers more distances (sprint, olympic, and relay), 2) it has a better finish (downtown in front of the Capitol vs an arbitrary line at Potomac Park), and 3) it is held at a time when weather generally cooperates better (Nations was a duathlon last year, and had horrible rain the year before that).
I'd still be interested in hearing more of the rationale as to why the race was denied its permit. It appears the only event scheduled to happen on The Mall on the weekend of June 17 is Art In The Park. Surely our early morning race can co-exist with the Women Artists who want to use the space in the afternoon.
The official reason I read is that NPS does not give permits for road races in June because of 4th of July.
Funny that you mention the finish line because Nation's Tri originally finished at the same place on Penn Ave. in front of the Capitol but that received lots of complaints due to the complications of shuttling people back to the transition area after the race to pick up bikes and that was why the finish line was moved over to Ohio Drive in Potomac Park. Races can never please everyone, it seems.
My guess is that the Parks Dept. looks at events that take place solely on the Mall as very different from events that require road closures that disrupt traffic, especially ones that require bridge closures. But I cannot shed any more light on the rationale of the permit denial.
Interesting that this is happening this week. I finally received a reply this morning from Congressman Jim Moran regarding my complaint about NPS and the denial of the permit. There isn't much info other than a copy of the fax that NPS sent to WDC Tri. The text of his message follows:
"Thank you for contacting me regarding the National Park Service's decision to deny the permit for the Washington D.C. Triathlon. I appreciate your interest and regret that the permit was denied.
It is my understanding that there were several issues the Park Service raised as reasons why the permit was denied. I have attached a copy of their decision. I do believe that the Park Service should consider updating their current policy to accommodate more events like the Triathlon and encourage you to work with the Park Service on the possibility of an event in 2013.
Thank you again for contacting me."
Here are some of the details from the NPS fax:
- National Mall & Memorial Parks (NAMA) Public Use Limitation Guidelines for Races provides that only one biathlon/triathlon [sic] will be permitted each year and only after Labor Day weekend through the third weekend of March.
[This is the first time I've ever heard of this sort of limitation. I'd be interested to learn when this guideline was put into place. Was this guideline put into place in response to the ITU and/or Washington DC Triathlon, not beforehand? I won't even comment on the statement about "biathlon" events.]
- In connection with the NAMA guideline, NPS mentions the new Martin Luther King Memorial as well as the nearby bookstore, run by Eastern National. [It's possible that Eastern National raised a complaint, similar to how the former NPS partner Tourmobile was able to convince NPS to keep Capital Bikeshare off of the National Mall for the first year of that program. Couldn't it be possible to work out an arrangement with Eastern National, to provide compensation to them for that one day of minimized sales? Or promote their services in general marketing for the triathlon if the race can somehow be salvaged?]
- The East Potomac Park Golf Course and tennis facilities are also mentioned.
- A similar Public Use Limitation Guidelines for Races for the GW Parkway and Rock Creek Park, prohibiting special event races, bike rides and organized runs requiring road closures from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, came into effect only in 2010, according to the NPS fax. [Sure looks like the policy was directed at WSEM because of the timing. The first WDC Triathlon was held in June 2010.]
- NPS mentions the impact on visitors to Arlington National Cemetery, Smithsonian museums and other prominent sites on the route. They also mention unspecified safety concerns. [I don't quite understand this part. While WDC Tri was the only major road race during the summer months, it's hardly the only large race in D.C. Why would there be safety concerns for WDC Tri but not for Nation's Tri, the Marine Corps Marathon, the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon (formerly the National Marathon), the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run or the Army Ten-Miler? NPS might claim it has something to do with the timing of the race, with WDC Tri taking place in June. But there are probably MORE visitors to the area for the Cherry Blossom Festival when the Cherry Blossom race takes place. And why are there special safety concerns for the 2012 race, but not for the June 2009 ITU race or the 2010 or 2011 WDC Triathlons? The only major difference is the MLK Memorial and the bookstore.]
- The relevant regulations are found in 36 C.F.R. sec. 7.96(g). They cite two groups of subsections as the basis for denying the permit:
36 C.F.R. sec. 7.96(g)(4)(vii)(B)(C)(D)
36 C.F.R. sec. 7.96(g)(5)(v)(B)(C)(D)(E)
Here is the link to 7.96(g): http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2004-title36-vol1/pdf/CFR-2004-title36-vol1-sec7-96.pdf
Note that the public statements from the NPS spokesperson do not match what NPS said in the fax. The public statements have cited various reasons for denying the permit, including Father's Day and the MLK Memorial and the Independence Day celebration. The regulations do say that the Smithsonian Folklife Festival has priority for the two-week period in late June and early July, but that does not conflict with the WDC Tri. (The regulations call it the Festival of American Folklife but the actual current name is the Smithsonian Folklife Festival.)
The public statements certainly did not emphasize the considerations of the bookstore. This reminds me far too much of the pull that Tourmobile had with NPS during the ongoing discussions to get Capital Bikeshare stations installed on the NAMA area. NPS only changed its policy after local media reported that the Tourmobile contract was an ongoing illegal no-bid monopoly award that had been renewed on an annual basis for decades. Within weeks of those reports, Tourmobile suddenly reported serious financial problems and NPS mysteriously became open to the idea of CaBi stations on the National Mall. Tourmobile closed up shop even before its final contract ended. (Martz bought at least some of the old Tourmobile vehicles, slapped on temporary nameplate stickers, and started up the old service again. However, I don't think they have the no-bid monopoly contract that Tourmobile did. And CaBi has finally been allowed to expand to the National Mall.)
I mention all this because it seems like the bookstore could be a big part of the decisionmaking here. While it's true that the MLK Memorial would be largely boxed in during the race, that was the same situation for the Jefferson Memorial during previous races in June. Couldn't it have been possible to limit race access to West Potomac Park to just one side, either Ohio Drive or Independence Ave.?
It would be a real shame if this really does mean the end of the Washington DC Triathlon. Could it be possible to find another weekend? Possibly in May? Or modify the course to limit the road closures on the National Mall, to accommodate visitors to the MLK Memorial and the bookstore? Could a financial or promotional arrangement be made with the bookstore? The previous course did not prevent visitors from going to the Smithsonian museums, although the race made it a bit more inconvenient. But only for a limited time. Most of the museums don't open until 10 am.
I'm really hoping that the race isn't being canceled permanently primarily because of the bookstore, when the store would only be inconvenienced for perhaps an hour or two. (There is no information on the website for the memorial so I'm assuming the bookstore opens at 10 am. Hard to imagine it opening earlier on a Sunday.) The financial harm to the bookstore would be minimal. An hour or two of lost sales on a Sunday morning? And those sales could be recovered through some arrangement with WSEM, I would think.
We have WSEM leadership attending our next board meeting (May 21) and among many topics, this will be high on the agenda.
From initial conversations I've had with WSEM, this was a business decision on their part...the permit situation becoming too much of a risk to the ongoing business side of the race.
The Board will report back all details we uncover from WSEM. In the mean time, I encourage you to think about what our position should be in this matter. Should we advocate to WSEM to add a sprint option to their Nations Triathlon? Should we launch an all out advocacy campaign aimed at key constituents who have created these policies? who have introduced roadblocks?
President, DC Tri Club
NPS behavior has been very problematic. Though there are valid concerns about large racing events on the National Mall during the peak tourist season, NPS has been inconsistent and deceptive about the reasons for the permit denial. Given that they engaged in outright illegal behavior with the Tourmobile contract renewal for decades, I'm not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Something is wrong with how NPS operates in the D.C. region. Unfortunately, now that Mayor Fenty is gone, there doesn't seem to be any motivation for local or national officials to do anything about WDC Tri, or the Tourmobile mess. Maybe the issue isn't sexy enough.
Any advocacy campaign needs to focus on the broader effects of the permit denial and the permanent cancellation of the race. Hard numbers on out-of-town visitors and the economic benefits of those visitors will help make the case appeal to more than just the limited triathlete base. Most non-triathletes frankly will not care too much whether there is a June race or not. But many more would care about the lost revenue from spending by visitors. Athletes, their friends and their families would have spent money on hotels, meals, local transportation, sporting gear, local entertainment and other purchases. Some of them might have made the trip even without the race, but not all.
While exact numbers on the economic benefits may not be available, good estimates could be made. WSEM could send out a survey or simply check the registration lists to see how many people were coming here from other areas or countries. The survey could ask how many friends and relatives (non-participants) would have accompanied them to D.C. Then hotel, food, equipment, and entertainment spending could be estimated. Or the survey could ask about approximate spending in those categories, without asking for specific details.
The advocacy campaign should be an ongoing matter, in the way that groups like WABA try to establish regular contacts with NPS and other government and private organizations (AAA, etc.). WABA would be a good source for advice, even though they don't focus on racing. Other race organizers in DC/VA/MD can help too. This could include organizers that focus only on running or cycling or charity events like the Best Buddies bike/run event in October. Maybe establish an informal regional group to help with permit issues in the future. USAT is another possible resource. WTC is the owner of WDC Tri. They can contribute on the advocacy front as well.
But without a strong champion on the issue, it's hard to see NPS backing down and allowing a June race on a permanent basis in the future, unless the course or the location are changed. While a different route wouldn't be as impressive as the old route, I think most triathletes would prefer to have some sort of May/June race than none at all.
Perhaps if the National Harbor 70.3 goes well this year, there could be a sprint/Olympic tri at NH next May or June, or at some point in the future. Or a race that runs primarily in Northern Virginia. (Maybe someone could locate a good set of roads and bridge crossings, which is always going to be an issue in the D.C. area. NPS would probably veto a GW Parkway course, but maybe not. They are allowing Bike DC to close off part of the GW Parkway and Rock Creek Parkway for their event this month: http://www.bikedc.net/routes/ )