This article consists of answers given through interviews with the representatives of The Bridge Day Commission, West Virginia Law Enforcement, West Virginia Department of Highways and Bridge Day Rappel Coordinator.
Bridge Day 2015 is around the corner and yet BASE jumpers are still speculating over the what some believe as controversial fingerprint scans. This bickering has caused a division in the community itself. Jumper’s who normally attend are opting out to avoid controversy and backlash from fellow jumper’s in the community.
For every BASE jumper out there who is calling for legalized BASE in the United States, this is a public relations nightmare. BASE jumping at The Bridge Day event, which is in it’s 36th year is an easy jump for veteran jumpers and holds little significance in their journals and not worthy of their travel time. To other jumper’s it’s the annual “get together” with friends. For many skydivers transitioning into BASE this was and will be the site of their first jump. For Carl Boenish, the Father of BASE, this is a dream turned reality. Base jumpers leaping from the bridge to the cheers of the crowd while camera’s record the event for history.
When I say public relations nightmare, I am referring to all the press coverage and social media chatter given to the boycotting of the event in 2015. There were plans of hosting an event in Twin Falls Idaho with the West Virginia event that has fallen by the wayside.
Twin Falls Chamber of Commerce member Shawn Barigar through a shared Facebook post on The Other Bridge page stated, “The Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce is more than willing to aid with coördination and connection of local services, organizations, ect. We are in the process of moving into our new offices and Visitor Center at the canyon rim-soon to be complete with expanded grassy areas (and hopefully some shade by Spring) for BASE jumpers. Looking forward to do what we can to aid you and to help our community continue to prosper!”
Not long after, a couple of poorly planned jumps and serious incidents had the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce taking a step back from Barigar’s statement. Which came to a relief to many of the local jumper’s who feared a surge of unsupervised jumpers converging in Twin Falls would cause more friction with the local citizenry then good for the cause of legalized BASE nationally. There were rumblings coming out of Twin Falls expressing that the bridge could be shut down completely and calls for jumper’s to “get it together”.
Now I ask you, if that is all it took for the Chamber Of Commerce of Twin Falls to take a step back from a “festival”, why would you raise your middle finger and send a message to the people of Fayette County, West Virginia to “fuck off” without any concrete information in hand?
In the history of BASE at The Bridge Day Festival there have been three deaths during Bridge Day due to accidents involving BASE jumpers:
- In 1983, Michael Glenn Williams from Birmingham, Alabama, drowned when his gear was caught in the current after he made a successful jump. The one rescue boat that was in the river at the time was busy with other jumpers, and could not make it to him. In later years, more than one rescue boat was always used, and parachutists were not allowed to jump until it was confirmed that one of the rescue boats was available.
- In 1987, Steven Gyrsting of Paoli, Pennsylvania, jumped using gear that was not BASE-specific gear and was killed after he was unable to open his reserve chute in time when his main chute failed to deploy.
- During the 2006 festival, Brian Lee Schubert died when he failed to deploy his parachute in time. In 1966, he had been one of the first to BASE jump from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
At no point has the commission EVER consider removing BASE as one of the events at the festival. In fact, after the 2006 death of Brian Lee Schubert, jumping resumed after the removal of the body.
They have supported BASE for 35 years and now this generation of jumper’s tells them to “fuck off” because there are new legal guidelines they must follow to host the festival.
When background checks were implemented after 9/11, did jumpers walk away, no the numbers continued to surge. No doubt due to the trust in Vertical Visions assuring the jumpers that their information would not fall into the hands of law enforcement or the National Park Service. The fact of the matter is all those hundred’s of pieces of paper with each jumper’s personal data was turned into the Sheriff’s office and returned at a later date for Vertical Visions to file & maintain. Again I ask, you trusted all your data in the Sheriff’s office hands for days, but you are concerned about a scan to check if you are on a terrorist watch list?
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN BEING THE (PAID)BASE COORDINATOR
When this is pointed out to jumper’s the most steadfast reply is, “they make money off us jumping”. Actually they do not make money off the jumper’s as your registration fee goes directly to the BASE coordinator. The standard fee for participants whether BASE or Rappelling is $15 per participant. In the case of Vertical Visions, they cut a deal that the general Bridge Day commission members were unaware of, in which they were only paying $10 per participant. So from the fee you paid to jump, only $10 goes to commission fund to cover costs of the festival. Do local businesses make money off your utilizing their services/products, yes, and they also make money off every tourist who visit the area throughout the other 364 days of the year.
You can read the contract between the last BASE coordinator, Vertical Visions and the Bridge Day Commission here. You can read the entirety of email conversations between Chairperson Cruishank and Vertical Visions here.
Noted by Cruishank: the BDC provides the porta potty, buses for the jumpers, security, medical & rescue teams and basically all infrastructure.
The BASE coordinator is responsible for the cost of insurance (unable to get quote) for the event and the permit to jump from the National Park Service. ($2500.00) and can use vans while charging a fee.
Which is the cost of doing business and yes, Vertical Vision’s is a business. This not a thankless job performed by a Bridge Day volunteer, but rather a job. The job entailing registering, turning in background checks into the sheriff’s police, maintaining those records for later use, working with the NPS on setting up a landing area and coordinating the jumpers on & off the bridge on the day of the event.
The BASE coordinator is privy to sponsorship money or product as well as the Bridge Day Commission.
Let’s take a look at general numbers. If there are 300 BASE participants and the fee is, $89.00, (none of the jumpers I asked for last years cost had the information as they jumped for free. Two jumpers confided in me, Vertical Visions provided free jumping to staff and friends) minus the $3000.00 to the BDC savings fund, the $2500.00 for the permit and then let’s guess, $1000.00 for insurance; give the BASE coordinating company a profit of $20,111.00. Deduct the cost of 300 t-shirts at a cost of $4.00 a shirt and pizza for the jumpers meeting.
There is a reason Vertical Visions and The Bridge Walk businesses continue to apply for the contract year after year, as Benjy Simpson, the Rappelling coordinator for Bridge Day says, “It’s a good business venture”. Benjy was thrilled to learn of the new scanner background checks opposed to the previous paper forms. He always felt uneasy about having to hold on to people’s confidential highly sensitive data for years on end. Now with the scanners doing the quick checks, no need to hold onto paperwork for when the Bridge Day Commission or Sheriff’s office requests it at a later date. Cruishank has stated the Bridge Day Commission has never requested the information.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN BEING THE VOLUNTEER BASE COORDINATOR
Organizing the jumpers on & off the bridge on the day of the event, coordinating with the NPS on the landing area and enlisting other volunteers.
FINGERPRINT SCANNERS & SECURITY
*Information provided through interview with West Virginia State Police Sergeant Kenny Tawes, West Virginia Law Enforcement Communications Representative, Rick Nissel, Don Meadows, West Virginia Department of Highways and Morphotrust technology representative Joe Flynn.
There seems to be a misconception about the background scanners and their purpose. I spoke with West Virginia State Police Sergeant Kenny Tawes, West Virginia Law Enforcement Communications Representative, Rick Nissel and Morphotrust technology representative Joe Flynn to get my education on all things scanner. Sergeant Tawes admitted they had no information on the scanners, because they had never laid hands on them; Bridge Day will be the first time his people will use them.
The Safran Morpho Trak Morphodent does NOT capture fingerprints, nor store them on servers. No personal information is entered into the scanner, therefore fingerprint scans are useless except for the intent to check the database for previously registered individuals. A fingerprint scan is DOES NOT capture fingerprints. The scanner connects to a PC in order for it to access the CJIS database only. Again, no fingerprints are captured, this is not a function of this particular SCANNER.
Does Safran Morpho Trak manufacturer devices to capture fingerprints? Of course, if you are ever arrested and booked you will most likely have the pleasure of entering your data and prints into it for the database. The device is far larger and not for handheld use.
The question to ask yourself is, “Would you prefer to complete a paper background check with your name, date of birth, social security and emergency contact information to the Sheriff’s office? (and then have that paper out there in a file cabinet or box at someone’s home) or Scan your fingerprint with no identifying data?”
BASE jumpers and Rappelers will be required to show their ID to check it against the participant lists, they will then move on to scan their fingerprint. If you are not a registered sex offender, known terrorist or associate of terrorists your prints will not be confirmed. The extradition of people wanted on warrants between states is almost non-existent. Unless you are a felon on the run, the issuing state is not going to travel to West Virginia to pick you up.
The fact is Google probably has more information on who you are, where you live, where you travel, your spending habits, who your are related to, who you work with, who your friends & neighbors are and everything you have ever posted or searched for online.
When I asked West Virginia, Police Sgt. Tawes about the state police’s role in the paper background checks previously utilized, he replied, “There was none, the West Virginia State Police have never seen the background checks, we have no interest in collecting, processing or storing all that paperwork. The West Virginia State Police have more than enough to do day in and day out without being concerned about BASE jumping. We provide security for Bridge Day, not security for BASE jumpers, rappellers or vendors, but ALL that are present at Bridge Day as a whole. Our job is to kept all safe in a short period of time when participants, staff and spectators are at large numbers in a large area.”
The reason for the change in procedures is simple. Technology and resources. A FBI department audit uncovered the use of the 911 Call Center for running non-criminal justice background checks. This is not within the policy set forth by the FBI. No one was reprimanded, no laws were broken, it was simply pointed out the 911 call center could no longer be used for this resource. Scanner’s are less invasive of privacy, they work efficiently and as with all modern computer technology, it takes less resources.
Another major misconception is that the Bridge Day Commission made this decision, that they somehow have authority over the FBI, Homeland Security, State and County Law Enforcement and Department of Highways. All of those agencies coordinate to keep not only the participants safe, but all of the spectators as well. The later being the main concern as the number of people walking freely outnumbers the participants cornered off in their designated area.
I spoke with Benjy Simpson, the Rappelling coordinator for Bridge Day, he operates the Bridge Walk throughout the year and is a resident of Oak Hill, West Virginia. He explained the event is no small feat, that in the case of Fayetteville, orchestrating this one day event includes a re-routing of traffic 45 miles out past the Fayetteville exchange for tractor trailer traffic or a 30 minute detour for local traffic. “Highway 19 is closed down. It’s not just about town traffic being disrupted during the event, but tractor-trailers running routes on the highway system. The highways connected with the New River Gorge Bridge enabled commerce traffic to run from Florida, up the East coast and into Canada. The bridge is considered a historical site for it’s role in changing the flow of commerce traffic in the region. Halting traffic for this event is a major undertaking, as is returning the bridge to it’s functionality by 5 pm that day.”
In summation, The Bridge Day Commission doesn’t have the authority to close the bridge, re-route traffic, they must follow the rules set forth by the West Virginia Department of Highways, (Don Meadows, West Virginia Department of Highways) West Virginia State Police and the FBI. As Sharon Cruikshank points out, “no one on the Bridge Day Commission is sitting around looking for ways to make this a more monumental task than it already proves to be. In fact we have an open door policy to anyone who wants to volunteer or has real solutions to problems.”
Yes, all those departments are present on the bridge during the event, as well as K9 dogs, trained in explosive detention, along with camera surveillance. The question of “Why do participants have to be background checked and not the spectators?”
The rule is anyone entering the Bridge prior to the security gates opening at 9:00 am, MUST submit to a background check. This includes the participants, vendors, staff and volunteers.
- NO Dogs.
- NO Backpacks, coolers, folding chairs or large handbags.
- NO Bicycles, skates, skateboards, strollers or wagons.
- NO Weapons, Fireworks, Illegal Drugs, or Alcoholic Beverages.
- NO Quadcopters.
The spectators enter through gates where law enforcement personal are stationed and immersed among the crowd. The spectators are not allowed to bring anything with them that could possibly be seen as a concealed weapon or explosive devices. Metal detection wands are used along with K9 Explosive dogs at the gate. The K9 dogs are then walked through the crowds on the bridge in shifts by their handlers.
If a BASE jumper would like to enter through the gates at 9:00 a.m. foregoing the background scan, they may do so. However they will be required to unpack their rig for inspection. It is considered a backpack/large bag. If you want to do this and then pack your chute, then get in line to jump; by all means inform the coordinator. (Note: this has always been an option at Bridge Day since the inception of background checks)
After meeting with and holding discussions with various jumpers, it was decided to allow background checks via a third party? “When I learned the policy had changed and background checks would no longer be able to be submitted to the 911 Call Center, I called a good friend of mine who manages the summit for the Boy Scouts. Here I was telling him he couldn’t do background checks and he informs me, the Boy Scouts have always used a third party company. You learn something new everyday if you keep asking the question.”, Cruikshank shared.
As for the jokes about terrorist, an anonymous source informed me make law enforcement has more arrests/stops of terrorist both foreign and home grown across this nation, then the public will ever hear about. Laugh all you want, they take their job seriously whether you do or not.
I inquired with Sgt. Tawes regarding why more K9’s are not utilized to sniff the participants as well as the spectators. The answer is, there are simply not enough dogs trained to perform searches. K9 Explosive detention dogs don’t just happen overnight and the number of them in service is not as large as you may guess. Most K9 Explosive dogs are used by state and federal agencies. K9 Narcotic dogs are not the same as K9 Explosive dogs, K9 Arson Dogs, K9 Search and Rescue dogs, K9 Cadaver dogs, ect. They are highly trained for a specific skill set and they must work in shifts during an event like Bridge Day as the dogs tire quickly from working.
As for bringing in outside K9 agencies, if the participants want to cover the exuberant expense and lobby the federal government to allow it; go right ahead. The West Virginia State Police, Homeland Security or the FBI will not be investing time on the idea as they already know the answer. There is not one company that could provide the number of dogs needed to cover the expanse of Bridge Day or the number of people present. Which by the way was one of the suggestions made by the Bridge Day Commission to their Security Committee and State Police. It’s a no go.
NATIONAL PARK RANGERS AND THEIR ROLE AT BRIDGE DAY
Information provided through an interview with National Park Service Law Enforcement Specialist and Advisory Member of the Bridge Day Commission, Chuck Noll.
I contacted the National Park Service (NPS), Law Enforcement Specialist and advisory member of the Bridge Day Commission, Chuck Noll. I asked Mr. Noll about the alleged complaints by the jumpers in regards to harassment by Park Rangers and if there was any truth to the allegations of a “jumper list” being kept in a safe at the ranger’s office.
After he finished laughing he responded, “the jumper list is a great story if you’re into conspiracy theories, but it’s just not true. As far as rangers hassling jumpers to deter them from attending Bridge Day, that’s ridiculous. Let me tell you about two jumpers from several years ago that the NPS rangers dealt with during the Bridge Day weekend. The two jumpers were caught jumping prior to Bridge Day in another area of the park. They were charged and then released to jump the next day at the event. Why would we do that if we didn’t want jumpers coming to the area and taking part in the event?”
I asked him if the jumpers gear was confiscated and or returned. “Yes they had their gear returned to them, following their court appearance. They went before a federal judge who fined them the equivalent of a high cost speeding ticket. They are welcome to again return this year to jump at the event.” He continued, “ We have no desire to prevent jumpers from attending the Bridge Day event. If there was any truth to the talk of the NPS not wanting jumpers, then a permit would not be issued. The NPS has never denied issuing the permit or attempted to persuade the Bridge Day commission to not host BASE jumping at the event. I sit on the Bridge Day Commission in an advisory role. The NPS does not get a vote on the board’s actions. I am there to answer questions regarding NPS policy, that’s it.”
I asked Mr. Noll, if he had read any of the posts by Jason Bell and other jumpers at BASEjumper.com regarding the before mentioned allegations. “I have heard about it. The thing that surprises me is that the NPS has always had a cordial working relationship with Jason (Bell) over the past 10 years. He never challenged the NPS policies, he followed the rules & regulations, and was always the most safety conscious BASE coordinator at the event. Jason is all about safety. In Jason’s review of the event he would always write thank you’s to the NPS, we never heard any of these allegations. Again I am surprised that Jason has taken this path and come out against the NPS and Bridge Day when in the past he was always compliant with our requests”.
Referenced by data provided by Bridge Day Commission Chair, Sharon Cruikshank.
August 2014: Bridge Day Security Committee set up a meeting for September 3, 2014 to research options for background checks.
September 17, 2014: Sergeant Tawes of the West Virginia State Police reported that they are looking at a different way to do security checks for next year. Motion was made to table the RFPS for BASE & Rappel until after Bridge Day 2014.
October 2014: 2014 Bridge Day Base coordinator, Jason Bell announces to the attending BASE jumpers that a change is in the works. One option put forth was the use of fingerprint scanners which would be manned by the West Virginia State Police. The jumpers at the meeting respond by giving the Bridge Day Commission the finger gesture to “fuck off”. Jason Bell then posts this photo on his Bridge Day Info. website to send a clear message to the Bridge Day Commission.
At this point the West Virginia State Police only suggestion to the Bridge Day Commission is the use of the scanners as it’s their belief it is the most efficient and least invasive of people’s privacy. Taking into account ALL the individuals who are required to have security checks, i.e., Bridge Day staff & volunteers, Base company staff & participants, Vendor Staff, and Rappelling company staff & participants. Less invasive and more efficient, was the way to go. It removed the burden of the coordinators collecting personal information from participants, the 911 Call center processing the hundred’s of checks and then storing that paperwork for years to come. There is a always a concern that the personal data could fall into the wrong hands and hundred’s of people’s information will be up for grabs for identity theft.
November 2014: During this meeting Cruikshank was directed to update the RFP for BASE & Rappel with the bio-metric scan rather than the paper background info. On Nov 6, 2015 the assistant at the Fayette County Chamber who served as the Bridge Day Chair resigned her position and left the chamber in December. Cruikshank was reappointed Bridge Day chair on November 7, 2014 by the Fayette County Commission.
It was at that time, Vertical Vision’s instructed Cruikshank to pull their application for BASE coordinator for the years 2015-2018. She obliged the request, and the commission viewed their relationship with Vertical Vision as in the past. The commission moved forward with securing a BASE coordinator and planning the 2015 festival.
January 2015: The security committee reported to the Bridge Day Commission on the use of bio-metric scans and the Bridge Day Commission adopts the bio-metric as a less intrusive method of processing security checks.
Jason Bell the owner of Vertical Visions continued to email the chair as a supporter of Bridge Day and friend who meant no animosity. Chairperson Cruikshank replied to Jason Bell saying they have moved on, as should he. You can read her email here.
March 2015: Base jumper, Mark Kissner assumes the role of Volunteer BASE coordinator for Bridge Day 2015 and BASE jumper, Marcus Ellison takes up an advisory role with the Bridge Day Commission.
Facts to consider when viewing the relationship between the Bridge Day Commission and Vertical Visions as laid out by Bridge Day Commission Chairperson Sharon Cruikshank.
- Vertical Visions had a cordial relationship with the Bridge Day Commission, not a face to face let’s work together relationship.
- Vertical Vision’s posted a photo to their website in October of 2014, depicting BASE jumpers at a meeting showing the finger gesture for “fuck off”. The Bridge Day Commission took that as a precursor to their relationship end with Vertical Visions. Vertical Visions contract had ended at the completion of 2014 Bridge Day.
- Vertical Vision’s attended the following meeting’s according to the meeting minutes during their three year contract: July 2014, Oct 15, 2014. June 2013, Aug 2013, Oct 9 2013. May 2012 and Oct 3 2012. There were 9 meeting’s held in 2014.
Meeting’s can be attended by a representative of the contracted parties or even teleconferenced for those outside Fayetteville. According to Mrs. Cruikshank, the BASE jumpers voices were not being heard, because they had no representation at the meetings.
- Vertical Vision’s, President Jason Bell, penned a email to the board, dated, January 21, 2015, stating he was not able to attend the meeting. Apparently he had forgotten he was no longer a part of The Bridge Festival and his opinions were not being taken into consideration. Read it here.
Sharon Cruikshank has gone on the record to state once Mr. Bell posted the photo of the jumpers exhibiting the “fuck you” hand gesture, the relationship had already begun to deteriorate on both sides; despite his calling her a “friend” and attempting to help with his council in emails.
The pre-Bridge Day October 2014 meeting was the last time they had any face to face discussions with Bell representing Vertical Visions. Chairwoman Cruikshank has also gone on to state, “She has never had any discussions or has it been brought before the board that Fayetteville work with the BASE community to set up 365 days of jumping.” If such a discussion had taken place it would be recorded in the meeting minutes or archived in emails, it is NOT. “There is no working relationship, if one of the parties is not present at the table. Vertical Vision’s was not present at the meeting’s and therefore could not be called upon for input. Nor were they being viewed any longer in a role of representing the BASE community.”
After being contacted by Mark Kissner, a BASE jumper from Maryland, whom Cruikshank calls “a real knight in shining armor” and local jumper Marcus Ellison, who had a sit down meeting with the Chair it was determined to offer an option. If participants want to pay the fee to have a background check run by a third party, it will be done on their dime. The State Police are offering FREE fingerprint scans which are less invasive into a person’s personal data for those who are open to the change to a quick, less invasive and efficient process.
I have chatted with Mark Kissner via online messenger, he has stated he stepped up to keep the lines of communication open and hopefully provide insight to the commission to ensure Bridge Day 2015 and beyond thrives. He foresees Marcus Ellison taking on the role of adviser to the Bridge Day Commission for the upcoming year or two. He has put all the social media and forum grumbling behind him, commenting that he doesn’t bother to read the posts any longer as he has work to do on the event. If someone wants to contribute and volunteer to assist with Bridge Day 2015 he is open to talk, the debate is done and over for him.
Alan Lewis is also looking to the future and asking everyone to give the name calling and “fuck you’s” shouted out the Bridge Day Commission a rest. He had this to say about his relationship with Cruikshank at this point, “I spoke with her on the phone and we talked about starting a new relationship. I apologized to her on my part for the anger and taking all of this out on her. She accepted and agreed that we will work together to resolve and grow from all of this.”
Lewis stated the boycott was about wanting a place at the table to bring about 365 days of BASE at the New River Gorge. When he learned the truth regarding the fingerprint scanners, as well as other information, his stance against the commission itself softened to the point he is ready to work together to find solutions. Lewis has joined the all volunteer BASE jumping staff at Bridge Day 2015 and is looking forward to a great time.
Lewis, Ellison, and Cruikshank have already discussed working together in an effort to explore BASE jumping at the New River Gorge 365 days a year as Cruikshank holds the chair position on Bridge Day Commission, on the Chamber of Commerce of Fayette County board and a Fayetteville councilwoman. “I have told Marcus I would gladly write a letters to State and National Representatives in favor of BASE jumping 365 days a year at New River Gorge.
I understand it’s been good for the city of Twin Falls while the BASE community has built a relationship with the chamber and law enforcement. We, the chamber are always looking for ways to bring more businesses and business into Fayette county. I don’t think anyone in Fayetteville is against growth, it will take everyone sitting down at the table and resolving whatever challenges there might be. I can’t speak for the West Virginia State Police or the National Park Service. I can only speak for myself and I fully support having these discussions.”
As explained to me by one jumper, “The Bridge Day Festival is more than BASE jumping and the fact is, people who come to the Bridge during the event to watch the jumps, don’t care if it’s 300 jumper’s each making 1-2 jumps, or 150 jumpers make 2 to 3 jumps. They are there for the spectacle of watching the jumpers leap into the air and then fly their chutes down to the landing area.”
Before researching all this information, a close friend and jumper wrote to me, “Show me the facts, I pride myself on being able to change my mind when presented the facts.” He went on to say, “Jason never spoke for me, nor do Alan, Mark or Marcus. I am a BASE jumper, I jump where I chose, it’s at the core of BASE, the freedom to make our own choices.”
The same sentiment was voiced by Cruishank herself, “The door is open, the welcome mat is out, if BASE jumper’s want to come to Bridge Day we’ll be here. If they chose not to attend, I’m okay with that, the town is okay with that, but they must recognize that it is their choice.”
The jump pass cost was lowered as a way to say thank you to the jumper’s who are standing by the people of Fayette County and the festival. The same reason there are swag bags for the jumpers and a BBQ, all part of saying “thanks for choosing to attend Bridge Day.”
In closing I will share a post by DeadMike Vederman, who granted me permission to do so.
DeadMike Vederman: In the end, Bridge Day is one out of 365 days and represents a divergence from the normal BASE routine, for most if not all. It certainly is ‘the place’ for worldwide BASE jumpers to gather and enjoy each others company each year. It is that camaraderie (and 876′) which give the day particular significance, but for your average BASE jumper, the other 364 days are what keep them going throughout the year.
For people like me, with only one Bridge Day jump, it was most amazing and I was entirely thankful for everything there. It truly sounds like next year will work out better if the alternate background check holds through and they figure out how to do that reliably, it may be possible that ‘late on-site’ registrants will be required to use another verification method? In any case, let’s all survive til 2016 to be one again.
Authors Note: The Bridge Day Commission turned over all their emails, contracts, receipts of payment, meeting dates/minutes and they were forthcoming with answers to my inquires; they want the truth out there. They refuse to mud sling on forums, social media or in print media. Their relationship with Vertical Visions ended with the withdrawal of their application, end of story.
I did the hours of research and individual interviews with people involved with Bridge Day 2015 with the urging of a circle of BASE jumpers with whom I share a mutual respectful friendship.
The people involved in Bridge Day were transparent in their conversations, and repeated over and over the sentiment that the Bridge Day Festival is more than BASE jumping.
Everyone involved has many more tasks and priorities than the BASE jumpers. The self-centered view that BASE jumpers deserve privileges over other participants or that they are a target of “the man” is ludicrous in my educated opinion. Base jumpers are no more or no less on the radar then any other person who will attend a sporting event, entertainment venue or large public assembly in this nation. Full Stop.
When I asked Rappelling Coordinator Benjy Simpson how the news went over with his participants he explained, “I attended the board meetings, I asked questions, waited for answers and then shared the information with my people. I didn’t wage a war where there was no battle to be fought.”
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”Plato
NOTE: I am no stranger to hearing stories from attending BASE jumpers who felt law enforcement overstepped their authority in dealing with jumpers. If you have a compliant while at the event report it to their superiors, the Bridge Commission, ect. If you have a legitimate compliant, they want to resolve it then and there.
As to the jumpers who talk about the steady decline over the past years in their experience at Bridge Day, you are encouraged to attend commission meetings to offer up constructed solutions. Be part of the change and give BASE jumpers a voice at the table.