Triathlon organizers win use of county roads

Group will pay an undisclosed fee for an increased police presence Sept. 9

August 26, 2007|By Susan Gvozdas | Susan Gvozdas,Special to The Sun

Organizers of Annapolis' first triathlon, who first struggled to win over some angry downtown merchants, have climbed over another obstacle: the possibility of the race being kept off county-owned roads.

The Annapolis Triathlon Club last week agreed to pay Anne Arundel County an unspecified fee for a beefed-up police presence during the Sept. 9 event, which is expected to draw 1,500 athletes and thousands more spectators to the city.

On Monday, the county rejected the organizers' request for a permit to use county roads, a key part of the triathlon's second leg - a 40-kilometer bicycle ride through the Historic District, up through Crownsville and back to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The decision was overturned days later after organizers agreed to pay for police overtime, said a Police Department spokeswoman, Acting Sgt. Sara Schriver.

Schriver said she could not release the amount of the fee until the State Highway Administration approves the permit, and J. Jeremy Parks, a co-founder of the triathlon club, declined to say how much it would cost.

He said the issues surrounding the permit were the result of a miscommunication and that dialogue has been ongoing between agencies and organizers.

When putting together such large-scale events, "there's going to be hurdles put in your way, but they aren't roadblocks," said Parks, who was in Chicago for another race. "There are things people want to have addressed so the end result best represents everybody who's putting their stamp on it."

The triathletes, who will come from two dozen states and Canada, will begin with a 1.5-kilometer swim that starts at City Dock, followed by the bike ride and concluding with a 10-kilometer run from the football stadium to the Pendennis Mount and back.

Plans for the event drew an unexpected amount of opposition at a four-hour public hearing in June. Tour and charter boat operators and wedding planners said the event would "overwhelm" the city. Community groups complained that churchgoers would be unable to attend Sunday services downtown.

Alderman Richard E. Israel and Annapolis Triathlon Club representatives brokered a compromise last month that would keep Main Street open, shifting parking away and moving the finish line from prime downtown locations. It also called for disqualifying any triathlete who drives to City Dock and banned spectators and athletes from parking at the dock or on neighboring streets.

To quell concerns from the maritime community, event organizers also agreed to reroute the swimming portion of the event to keep athletes out of the main channel.

The first version of the club's lease required it to pay the city $1, but the amended agreement required a $5,000 rental fee, which could be reduced if costs exceed revenues.

The police overtime adds to the event's costs.

Parks said organizers have volunteered hundreds of hours to plan the nonprofit event. The club is recruiting more volunteers on its Web site, saying a "huge number" is still needed for the day of the race and the Saturday and Wednesday leading up to it.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, a vocal proponent of the event, said she had asked state Sen. John C. Astle and Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch, who both live in Annapolis, to intervene in last week's controversy to ensure it would go on as planned. She said that the city can and should work to accommodate such events that draw attention to the historic city.

Sun staff writer Justin Fenton contributed to this article.

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