Last Thursday, 800 bicyclists set out from Enumclaw for a 152-mile ride around Mount Rainier to be completed in one day.
The National Parks Service issues a special permit for this ride, known as the RAMROD (Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day), that limits the number of riders and restricts it to a weekday (usually the last Thursday in July). The restrictions are imposed because the ride interferes with other traffic in Mount Rainier National Park and necessitates increased Park Ranger patrols and emergency services.
This year those services were called on to come to the aid of Steve Albers, a Tacoma businessman and community volunteer, who fell during the descent from Inspiration Point to Box Canyon. Albers, 60, died the next day at Harborview Medical Center from severe head and torso injuries.
The Park Service and the Redmond Cycling Club, which took over organizing the ride in 1987, have tried to make the ride safe. In 1999, the Park Service asked that timing of riders be discontinued to discourage excessive speed by the bicyclists. The cycling club alerts riders to road construction and other potential riding hazards before and during each RAMROD, which started in 1984.
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But given the dangers of riding in mountain terrain, the disruption to other park visitors and the added ranger staffing needed, should the Park Service continue to issue permits for the RAMROD?