With the help of Inyo County, Death Valley National Park officials are planning to add bike paths within the park to accommodate tourists who rent two-wheelers from Furnace Creek.
Despite concerns that the park would be competing with the county to obtain state and federal grant funding for bike paths, county leaders decided Tuesday to amend the Collaborative Bikeways Plan to incorporate parts of Death Valley.
According to Public Works Director Doug Wilson, Death Valley National Park has traditionally abstained from the Collaborative Bikeways Plan and refused to designate bike paths within the park. However, new Park Manager Sarah Craighead has contacted the county asking to join the effort to create a safe, comprehensive network of bike-friendly roads.
Wilson said Death Valley officials are pursuing federal funding to help cover the cost of installing bike lanes on portions of State Route 190 and Badwater Road. Wilson said the park will be much more likely to receive funding as a member of the County Collaborative Bikeways Plan.
Thus, Wilson said, the board must amend the Collaborative Bike Plan to incorporate the National Park.
“I’m fully aware of the need down there, Furnace Creek rents bikes, and (S.R.) 190 is a two-lane road and the bikes are right in there with the automobile traffic,” said Fifth District Supervisor Richard Cervantes, whose district includes Death Valley. “There is definitely a need for some sort of bike lane.”
Fourth District Supervisor Marty Fortney said he agreed, and added that he has noticed dangerous conditions on Badwater Road due to the lack of bike paths and the high volume of visitors renting bikes. Fortney also said that bike lanes should be added to the road leading to Father Crowley Lookout.
First District Supervisor Linda Arcularius wanted some assurance that the National Park would not be competing with Inyo County for funds for bike lanes.
“The needs for bike lanes in my district are great, and we don’t have the money,” Arcularius said. “If this is going to take away from projects up here, I can’t support it.”
Inyo County Road Supervisor Courtney Smith said the National Park Service will be working with Caltrans to apply for a different pot of money.
“This won’t diminish money for our current plan,” Smith said.
With the county’s approval to incorporate Death Valley National Park in the Collaborative Bikeways Plan, Wilson said the proposal will be brought before other collaborative members, such as the City of Bishop, to ensure there are no conflicts of interest.
Once each member has signed off on the inclusion of the park, Smith said the Park Service will be able to begin applying for state and federal grants to pay for the construction of bike lanes.