I set out a month ago to write an article about the injustices being placed upon BASE jumpers, Vendors and Rappellers at the West Virginia Bridge Day Festival. I did so at the request of my good friend, Alan Lewis who was leading a boycott of the event by BASE jumpers via social media. I interviewed Alan for his reasoning of the boycott and what he had hoped to do in the long run for BASE.
I wrote an article that basically asked the question, “Did the BDC live under a rock? How could they insist on fingerprinting people? What had this nation become when such invasions of privacy are becoming acceptable and the norm?”
I turned the article into Lara Kjeldsen, the co-founder and editor of Blue Skies Magazine for consideration for publication. It was returned to me stamped, “rejected”. The notations explained it read as if I was being bias and overly supportive of the BASE jumping community without speaking to the other parties involved. I had place a call to the BDC, but hadn’t heard back, so I assumed they had “no comment”. I was wrong.
In truth, they were waiting to hold this months BDC meeting to revise the options for security checks and wanted to be able to give me updated information.
Turned out everything I had read or been told via social media, or by jumpers, everything that had been explained to Alan or read, really wasn’t the truth of the matter.
When I confronted Alan with the documents, the cold hard truths, I asked him if he thought I should just kill the article.
He replied, “No, the truth has to come out. The BASE community will be better off in knowing the truth and can move forward in building a relationship with the BDC.”
Here is a snippet of what’s to come in the May issue of Blue Skies Magazine.
According to the BDC, Vertical Horizons only communicated twice with them in an email back in January 2015 requesting the withdrawal of the company’s application as BD BASE coördinator and an email asking for information on the scanner.
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. A October 2014 meeting was the last time they had any face to face discussions with Bell. Director Cruikshank has also gone on record 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.
She further provided BDC meeting minutes showing that Vertical Horizon’s failed to attend the board meetings as specified in their contract. “There is no communication if one of the parties is not present at the table.”, she clearly pointed out.
BASE, Rappelling, Staff and Vendors personal data was collected background checks , then turned over to the 911 call center to be processed and the files stored and retained by the respective coördinator’s.
At no time was the BDC, WV State Police, NPS or other coordinators privy to that each others data. The contract between the coördinator and the BDC gives specific directions on the handling of background checks and no where do they ask for participants personal information collected by the coördinator. They only give instruction to provide it to the 911 call center/sheriff for processing.
I interviewed Benjy Simpson, the owner of the Bridge Walk and coördinator for Rappelling at the event. He says, “he has never been asked to turnover personal data collected on participants, other than to the sheriff’s 911 call center to process the security checks”.
He made the point that if agencies didn’t want BASE jumpers at the event, they could merely not schedule BASE, the NPS could deny the permit and put an end to it just like that. He suggested, “For anyone to think BASE jumping is profitable for the BDC, you need to check your ego at the door and look at the big picture”.
“There are no lists of jumpers, there is no evil plot to harass jumper’s, it’s all just “urban myth” created by the jumper’s themselves, including Jason Bell”, he pointed out.
The BDC, WV State Police, NPS have all taken a beating on social media without firing a shot back as to not given validity to the statements being made.
However, now that the dust has cleared, they continue to work towards making BD a successful event this year; they granted me an extensive amount of their time in interviews and providing black and white data/information.
Be sure to check out the May issue of Blue Skies Magazine for my article, Bridge Day 2015: Communication Breakdown
Be kind to yourself and one another, Peace.