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Report: Businesses Lose Money Over Death Valley Changes

Death Valley National Park officials ruled there can no longer be daytime races in the summer there.

Death Valley National Park officials ruled there can no longer be daytime races in the summer there.

Two months after officials in charge of managing Death Valley National Park ruled there could be no more daytime races there in the summer, the local Chamber of Commerce is venting about the revenue businesses have lost because of the new rule.

The new directive particularly affects the Badwater 135, an annual 135-mile ultramarathon that begins in Badwater Basin in Death Valley, Calif. and takes racers to the flanks of Mount Whitney near Lone Pine, Calif. Race organizers were forced to change this year’s route as officials pondered making the new rule.

In September, it became official.

According to Sierra Wave, the Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce said the local economy typically gets a $1.2 million boost because of Badwater. The race is held in the scorching July heat, but there have not been any major illnesses or safety problems due to the heat in the race’s 37-year history.

Also, local officials estimated that business owners lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when the park was closed during the safety review, reports the Sierra Wave.

AdventureCORPS, which hosts the Badwater 135, pointed to new leadership at Death Valley National Park as the root cause of the rule that prohibits athletic competitions in Death Valley between June 14 and Sept. 9 during daytime hours.

Kathleen Billings became the new Park Superintendent in March 2013 and first ordered a safety review of events in the area.

In a statement last December, AdventureCORPS 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.”

Inyo County, the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce and AdventureCORPS were not invited to participate in the decision-making process, reports the Sierra Wave.

As part of its ruling, Death Valley National Park said, “Events will not be permitted for locations in the park below 2,000 feet during the day between June 14 and September 9, between 10 a.m. and sunset, when temperatures historically reach 110 degrees F (43 degrees C).”

Chris Kostman, race director for the Badwater 135, created a “new and improved” route for the 2014 race. Kostman avoided Death Valley by beginning the race in Lone Pine, Calif., taking racers out into the desert with a turn-around point just before the turn-off to Darwin, adding in some extra elevation with a 4,500-foot climb up Cerro Gordo and ending at the traditional Whitney Portal finish.

“Badwater 135 isn’t a place or a start line, but a state of mind and a way of life. It’s about a life dedicated to going further and digging deeper, connecting with the environment and other people, supporting charitable causes and caring about the planet on which we live,” said Kostman at the pre-race talk in July. “The Badwater 135 spirit has never been more alive and well.

“I still see a bright future for the Badwater 135, but prefer not to comment yet until we have fully digested the myriad new requirements for hosting events in the park and have requested clarification of some details brought up in their 73-page ‘safety review.'”