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    April 06, 2024 4 min read

    This summer’s 40th annual Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day endurance cycling event is at risk of being canceled due to a permitting impasse with Mount Rainier National Park.

    Aiming to prevent congestion on park roads, Mount Rainier leadership has denied a request from RAMROD organizers Redmond Cycling Club to use Paradise and Stevens Canyon roads, some of the park’s most scenic and busy routes, just south of the mountain. 

    RAMROD leaders say a proposed reroute, which veers south of the park, is less scenic, safe and challenging for riders — and would result in a significant downtick in participation. The park says it takes issue with the influx of visitors from RAMROD, and argues the detour used in 2022 and 2023 is suitable. 

    Redmond Cycling Club has made alternate proposals to use the park’s southern roads in recent weeks, like factoring RAMROD riders into the park’s daily timed entry system. But ultimately, RCC leaders won’t host the ride if they can’t use the park’s southern roads, and Mount Rainier National Park spokesperson Terry Wildy said the park will not approve a RAMROD plan that uses said roads.

    As such, the ride has been pushed from July, Redmond Cycling Club Director Joe Matthews said Tuesday. Conversations remain ongoing with park officials about a potential September RAMROD, outside the summer reservation window, and the club will make a final decision this month, Matthews said. 

    “It really is a shock, emotionally,” Matthews said of the reroute and permit dilemma. “It’s an unfortunate situation, because we really have loved our partnership, and we’ve really done everything we can every year to be phenomenal partners.”

    The decision by Superintendent Greg Dudgeon comes as Mount Rainier National Park launches a reservation-based system for two of the park’s most popular entrances — Nisqually and Sunrise. Dudgeon said the park has approved a special use permit for RAMROD, but excluded the 15 miles of often-traffic-jammed roads that run from the Nisqually entrance in the southwest corner of the park to the Stevens Canyon entrance in the southeast. 

    “We did not deny a permit,” Dudgeon said. “We’ve been expressing our willingness to approve a special use permit for the organizers of RAMROD to use the same route they developed with us for the 2023 and 2022 rides,” using the detour and roads in the park’s eastern corridor. 

    After a pandemic hiatus, RAMROD organizers and the park agreed to a two-year reroute due to construction on Stevens Canyon Road. The ride detoured in the past two years to Skate Creek Road, a road south of the park that leads to Packwood. The park wants the reroute to be permanent. But ride organizers say the Skate Creek route, featuring “a 55 mile an hour road with a narrow shoulder,” is not worth the trouble.

    Beyond his club’s safety concerns, Matthews noted a 20% decline in ridership during the reroute years. During a normal year, the club hosts a lottery to assign 600 slots for the ride, which takes place on the fourth Thursday of July. (An additional 200 spaces are reserved for volunteers from the previous year’s event.) The bad news came less than a month before this year’s lottery.  

    Dudgeon says the detour is the only way forward. It’s his view that the ride isn’t keeping with what park guidelines define as “necessary and appropriate use.”

    “It’s really about the influx of 800 bicyclists and additional support staff that are a part of that event through to the middle of the park,” Dudgeon said, “and how that would negatively impact the visitor experience and increase congestion.”

    While Dudgeon has expressed concern about safety issues on the park’s southern roads, Matthews refutes that the ride, which occurs on a weekday morning, is a safety risk. 

    “We have a very rigorous incident and safety plan, one of the most mature plans for any event in the state,” he said. “And we’ve always gotten really great feedback from the park about the fidelity of this plan.”

    The club has received support from U.S. Rep. Kim Schrier’s office in hopes of gaining access to the roads. In an emailed statement, Schrier said she believes “we can find a solution that fulfills the desires of experienced cyclists seeking to participate in a decades-old tradition of visiting Mount Rainier by bike” that also “suits the best interests of Mount Rainier National Park and its other visitors.” 

    But efforts to reach a compromise haven’t yet been successful.

    Matthews said Redmond Cycling Club will host the ride in the future if the park reverses its decision, but the Skate Creek route isn’t an option. The club’s board concluded that declining interest in a rerouted RAMROD would mean the event had five to seven years left. It’s been a disappointment for organizers, longtime riders and local businesses alike.

    “The route through the park is definitely the preferred route. It’s beautiful,” said Jim Vecht, a volunteer who manages RAMROD registrations. “Not being able to do that route — it’s just a challenging day. You do get a couple of glimpses of Mount Rainier, but it’s not the same.”

    Longtime volunteer Lynn McArthur, who has ridden in 20 RAMRODs, said that “it’s huge, not just to me personally, but to the whole cycling community involved in this event. I just don’t understand the park’s reasoning.