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As the city nears a total of 100 road races scheduled this year, leaders here think that number is all detoured drivers and blocked-off neighborhoods can handle. A new race policy will cap races and parades at 100 events per year.
The Raleigh City Council’s law and public safety committee voted Tuesday to recommend new policies that will govern event-related street and greenway closures. The decision follows months of debate between race organizers eager to tap the growing popularity of running and neighbors and businesses that are regularly inconvenienced.
The full council could approve the rules as soon as this week. In addition to the cap on street closures, the new policy would allow only four events per weekend or just two big events – 10k races or longer and anything that closes streets more than three hours. “If we have three big events in a weekend, that begins to tax the staff that we have,” assistant city manager Dan Howe said.
Race organizers could reserve dates on a first-come, first-served basis and keep the date the following year if they meet obligations to the city. Established events could reserve for up to three years – an assurance several races needed to secure major sponsorships.
Big events come first
The policy won’t, however, prevent local races from getting bumped by a bigger event with national prestige. Some organizers were upset that the city approved prime routes for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series and Ironman Triathlon – effectively canceling local races scheduled for the same dates. Even with three-year reservations in place, the city council could still schedule “an economic development event at any time,” Howe said.
Bruce Bokish, owner of Precision Race, said the council should also give those perks to nationally known local races such as the Krispy Kreme Challenge and the City of Oaks Marathon. “I’d love to see the same level of support offered in promoting tourism that we are giving to some of these national corporations,” Bokish said.
Races that don’t use city streets won’t count toward the cap. To create more off-road alternatives, the city will create several certified 5k courses contained within Raleigh parks. Locations could include the Dorothea Dix campus and Walnut Creek Park in Southeast Raleigh.
Under the new rules, all races and parades would pay a $100 application fee to cover administrative costs such as researching proposed routes and detouring public buses. “It does help us afford to spend the staff time necessary,” Howe said.
That fee didn’t prompt any complaints, but several people aren’t happy with a possible $350-per-mile charge for using greenways on a race course. John Kane, owner of Midtown Race Series, said the charge isn’t fair because the greenways remain open to the public during races.
“We’re punishing local businesses and local charities, and in turn citizens who already pay tax dollars on these greenways,” Kane said.
Councilman John Odom agreed, saying the fee could hurt smaller events. “I think that’s pretty steep,” he said. “I think that’ll knock out a lot of nonprofits.”
But Parks and Recreation Director Diane Sauer said the fee covers maintenance costs associated with a race. Workers typically inspect and mow the section of trail immediately before a race. “When these races are on city parks and greenways, it’s a reflection on the city,” she said. “We want to make sure things are at the highest level it can be as far as maintenance.”
Council members asked Sauer to provide details of how cheaper or free greenway use would affect her department’s budget. The full council will hear the report and decide on the fees when they meet Tuesday.