Bridge Day 2015
An Open Letter To The New BASE Jumping Advisors
May 18, 2015
Mark Kissner and Team,
Bridge Day 2015 got off to a bad start with a new Bridge Day Commission fingerprint requirement that affected all BASE jumpers. Online polls indicated that more than 95% of all Bridge Day BASE jumpers would decline to attend the event if fingerprinting was mandatory. Additionally, no resolution to the State Police bullying of spectators and jumpers has yet been offered. For these primary reasons, my company Vertical Visions declined to continue as the Bridge Day BASE Jumping Coordinator - a position held from 2002 through 2014.
Despite a grassroots movement by many BASE jumpers to boycott Bridge Day 2015, you struck a deal with the Bridge Day Commission to remove the fingerprint requirement. While I may disagree on how this deal was struck, ultimately you were able to accomplish some of the tasks necessary to allow jumpers to return to the event. My Bridge Day 2012-2014 contract included many high dollar expenses (insurance, NPS permit, water rescue, T-shirts) that are now paid for by the Chamber of Commerce, so this is a positive change for Bridge Day 2015 that you were a part of. If the BASE jumping community had not been so cohesive and vocal in fighting against the fingerprint requirement, the opportunity for the Bridge Day Commission to compromise may never have been realized. In the same way that Bridge Day jumpers are respected for their decision to participate in an extraordinary sport, everyone must also grant respect to differences in privacy concerns.
Shortly after your announcement of a deal to serve as an advisor to Bridge Day 2015, I felt betrayed. Your online forum posts suggested things that caused me pain and I promptly returned fire. After several months of thought, I realized that we had both gone too far with this. Ultimately, these attacks on each other were unproductive. I sincerely apologize for some of the things I posted. We are both BASE jumpers and we need to stand together to further our sport and legal events such as Bridge Day. We are both better than this. We may not always agree on everything, but we are cut from the same cloth.
The bottom line is that Bridge Day 2015 will occur. There will be jumpers. And I'm now willing to support you in your effort, just as former Bridge Day BASE Jumping Coordinators Avery Badenhop, Harry Parker, and Dennis McGlynn supported me back in 2002. I'm changing my mind and offering to help because it's the right thing to do. The only thing I ask is that you stick up for the BASE jumping community when necessary. Trust me, you will be faced with many situations where it is easier to just say "yes" to the Bridge Day Commission when your gut tells you the exact opposite. Always do what is right for the sport of BASE jumping, even when it may cost you money, friendships, or fame. Don't be afraid to tell the State Police how you feel and always offer the Bridge Day Commission suggestions to improve the event. Listen to each and every jumper. And continue to improve the overall experience for the hundreds of jumpers that are trusting your leadership. You and your entire team are proven leaders and I'm confident in the success of Bridge Day 2015.
I now ask that all jumpers continue to attend Bridge Day and give the new BASE Jumping Advisors the support they need. I love Bridge Day more than most people can imagine and I'd like to return to the event this year (although I will still opt for the traditional background check). I'm confident that many of my former staff members feel the same way as I do. See you all in October.
Best of luck to you and your team at Bridge Day 2015.
Jason Bell - BASE #428
Vertical Visions LLC
Bridge Day BASE Jumping Coordinator 2002-2014