After the letter from USA Cycling’s Micah Rice was made public (read it here), the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation has issued a rebuttal to some of the claims of the letter on its website.
The biggest point the Foundation makes is in the contradictory statements about working with the foundation and its arborists. Rice wrote the following in his letter:
“Sunday afternoon, we did a 90-minute walk-through with the Parks Department and two arborists from the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation, and all sides were pleased with the changes.”
And yet the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation denies that it was present at any walk-through, even on Sunday, stating:
“We did not meet with the event organizer or participate in any walk-through.”
It also points out that Rice was quoted by Velonews in a Sunday report:
There was a walkthrough with Parks staff prior to each day of racing once racing began. The Heritage Tree Foundation was never present, and it would have been the onus of the Parks Department to invite them. “We did not know of this tree group,” Rice said. “That group was never presented to us as a group we were supposed to liaison with. We always understood that if there was a change that needed to be made, per our permit that we had with the city, that that information would come from the person we liaison with [at the Parks Department].”
We’ve reached out to Micah Rice to clarify these contradictory statements. Micah Rice has responded, telling Cyclocross Magazine (and other media via email) the following:
“My understanding was that the two arborists that I met on Sunday afternoon before the walk-through were from this Foundation. They introduced themselves as tree experts that were with a group in town, but it is possible they were with a different group (a misunderstanding on my part) and asked to be there by Parks and Rec. Department. Whatever the case, PARD communicated to me that these arborists must be happy with the changes that we were to make to the course in order to run the races on Monday. It is possible that I was mistaken on the group the tree experts were with.
“I think we can continue to beat this to death on a microscopic level, but the main thing is that we did walk-throughs with tree experts that PARD asked us to do. Per our permit and relationship with the city of Austin, we did our due diligence and made every change asked of us by the landowner — in this case PARD.”
Walk-through presence aside, the foundation goes further to distance itself from the actual rescheduling of Sunday’s races that threw a wrench in so many athlete’s lives, financially and emotionally, even when their races went off in a compressed Monday schedule.
While it is clear in its priority to protect the heritage trees, the foundation suggests an irrigation pipe is the reason the races were cancelled on Sunday, and claims ignorance of the actual reasons for the police turning racers away at 7:15 a.m.:
“PARD Ground staff walked the course daily each morning of the race. We think that they found irrigation pipe exposed on Sunday and shut down the race as is standard PARD practice. The heritage trees had been affected with soil compaction since the first day of the race. The rain on Saturday made the impact on the trees worse, but we think that it was primarily the exposed irrigation that led to the race shut down.”
The group also makes some assumptions without knowledge or research as to how our sport works and how scheduling of our National Championship works:
“These races are based on mud. They need mud to make it more challenging. We feel that if it hadn’t rained, the organizers would have wetted the course to make it challenging. We think that the event was scheduled intentionally during the time when it typically rains in Austin.”
Stay tuned as Cyclocross Magazine attempts to get to the bottom of this story. Also, see a cyclocrossing arborist’s opinion on the postponed Nationals.
Ed. note: We at Cyclocross Magazine are fully supportive of protecting heritage trees and simply wished concerns could have been voiced and possibly addressed before the 11th hour to avoid any rescheduling of National Championship races. If the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation would also contact a cyclocrosser, or cyclocrossing arborist or arborist cyclocrosser, much of their ignorance about our sport could be erased and such assumptions don’t have to be made. We’re happy to answer any cyclocross questions the foundation has. Contact us.