A popular annual Golden event will not continue, and its organizers say its not COVID-19 that’s behind the cancellation. Instead, the organizers of the popular fall Golden Giddyup mountain bike …
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A popular annual Golden event will not continue, and its organizers say its not COVID-19 that’s behind the cancellation.
Instead, the organizers of the popular fall Golden Giddyup mountain bike race say they have decided to stop putting on the race because of changes Jefferson County Open Space has made changes its policies for events like the Giddyup that the organizers concluded made it impractical to continue the event.
On June 11, Golden Giddyup Executive Director Jeff Watrobka, sent an email to the Giddyup’s email list announcing the closure, which he said is the end result of a process that began after JCOS leadership requested a meeting with Giddyup organizers the week after last years.
MORE: Golden Giddyup 2019 in photos
Watrobka said the organizers were informed at that meeting that JCOS was implementing a new form of cost recovery for staff time and would now be charging the Giddyup for 150% of the cost of staffing the event, approximately $27,000, although JCOS said the figure was actually $9.000, which is just a portion of what they say is the $20,000 cost of staffing the event.
JCOS staff also told the Giddyup’s organizers that they were only willing to close one park to host the race, rather than the three that had historically been closed. Finally, Watrobka said the county told the Giddyup’s organizers to submit a new application for the event by October 1, which was roughly two weeks away.
Matt Robbins, JCOS Community Connections Manager, said JCOS instituted the cost recovery program last year in order to ensure that “groups who receive a specific benefit through use of JCOS property pay a proportionate amount of the cost.” In the past, JCOS had charged for some events but not others. However, with the county government facing budget cuts, JCOS determined it was now appropriate to begin charging for staff time related to special events.
According to Robbins, JCOS decided to limit the Giddyup to one JCO park in part because it felt it couldn’t justify closing three of the system’s parks on a busy fall weekend for an event that attracted 450 participants last year. At the same time, reducing the number of parks would also reduce the amount of staff time required, particularly if the event could be moved away from North Table Mountain where a large amount of staff is required to ensure people are staying off the trails during the race.
“We continued that conversation and said that we believe that based on the number of riders and participants they had and based on the amount of resources we could do if we could scale that back to one park, we could scale them from as many as 20 staff down to perhaps four staff,” Robbins said. “We were hopeful they would agree to that.”
The process further broke down when Team Giddyup submitted three applications for park closures for the event. The first requested the closure of all three parks that had been closed in the past, another requesting the closure of just White Ranch Park and North Table Mountain Park and the third for just White Ranch Park. JCOS, however, rejected all three of those permits and instead wrote a new permit for just Apex Park, which also limited the closure to eight hours.
For Watrobka and the Giddyup team, that arrangement just didn’t make sense as it would mean a reduction of 18 miles of trail from the race’s traditional route and the loss of options for novice riders as well as the added the added staffing costs.
“It felt a bit like we were being told to get lost… right? “ Watrobka wrote in the email.
Robbins, however, fervently denies that charge.
“We fully understand that they are frustrated but by no means is that the case,” Robbins said. “People may interpret that from reading the posts from on their social media page, but that’s not our intent at all. We need to be responsive to all visitors and all visitor types and so we move forward thinking there’s no question that the folks who participated in this care deeply about the community as do we so we absolutely hope we can find some common ground and move forward.”
For Chris Schieffer, a regular participant in the Giddyup, the situation is disappointing not only because it means the end of the race she loved but also the further deterioration of the relationship between Team Giddyup and JCOS.
“There have been many examples of the Giddyup coming to Jefferson County Open space as an organization and as a partner proposing plans that would enhance the entire outdoor community experience and providing executable action items and realistic timelines, yet continually being ignored despite the 13,000 hours of free trailwork and maintenance provided by its volunteers,” said Schieffer. “It’s disheartening to think of the many individuals who pour their heart and soul into these trails, continuing to go unheard and denied resources to enhance the experience for everyone.”
Such trail improvement efforts have been central to the Giddyup race, which was created to celebrate the work volunteers with Team Giddyup have done to improve JCOS trails since the group was founded to bring together volunteers to improve trails after the 2013 floods.
But while Watrobka said in the email he’s frustrated by how the Giddyup was handled by JCOS given the groups contributions to its trails, he said that won’t stop the organizations efforts to improve them although the Giddyup’s trail team will now be absorbed by the Colorado Mountain Bike Association.
Team Giddyup, meanwhile, is evolving into the Giddyup Trail Alliance, an organization oriented around advocating for the interests of mountain bikes and outdoor recreation in Jefferson County.
“We need consistent representation in local government if we hope for any real change in trail access, development and management,” Watrobka said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made it ever more clear that citizens seek outdoor recreation as an “essential need,” and we believe we need more trail and better management strategies in our parks to provide that need while keeping people safe and healthy.”
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