Triathlon bike route rejected

Annapolis-area race organizers call denial of permit 'unfair, baffling' after earlier efforts to satisfy objections from businesses, churches

August 07, 2008|By Karen Shih | Karen Shih,Sun Reporter

Organizers planning to bring the Annapolis Triathlon back for a second year this September are already dealing with opposition from businesses and churches, and now they face another hitch: The county has denied them a parade license because of the bicycle portion of their race.

"This is unfair, arbitrary and, frankly, baffling," organizers said in an announcement this week. They said they had submitted their application in February and had worked closely with county officials to develop their bike route.

The race is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Sept. 7, mostly around Sandy Point State Park, and will include a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Thursday's Anne Arundel section on the Annapolis Triathlon misidentified the source of $5,000 given to Anne Arundel Community College to start an endowment for students from at-risk neighborhoods. The money came from the Annapolis Triathlon Club.
The Sun regrets the error.

Department of Inspections and Permits spokeswoman Tracie Reynolds said, "Police and traffic engineering had major concerns over the route and how it would affect public safety and that of the race participants." Route 2 and College Parkway were their biggest concerns, she said.

Race organizers, who were notified Friday, can submit an alternate route for approval.

Since the permits department must consult police and fire departments and traffic engineers, it could take up to two to three weeks to approve the license. More than 1,400 have registered for the event, organizers said.

"It is discouraging that in Anne Arundel County we cannot bring together the talents of agency officials with the organizers to make this triathlon happen here," organizers said. They said that last year's race generated more than a million dollars for the local economy, and turning away that money was "wrongheaded and a disservice to local taxpayers."

The organizers said they will pursue venues for an "aquathon," a swimming and running event, if the triathlon falls through.

The not-for-profit race had changed its route to appease businesses in downtown Annapolis. Organizers have said that they will change the Sunday date to a Saturday race in coming years to avoid further opposition from local churches.

Last year, the county also rejected the organizers' request for a permit to use county roads, but the decision was overturned days later when organizers agreed to pay for police overtime. Reynolds stressed that the problem was with the route this year, and organizers said they had agreed to pay all fees already, making a similar resolution unlikely.

"If it weren't for the traffic issue last year, I'm not sure you could say anything negative about" the triathlon, said Tom Smith, race co-founder and a city employee.

But traffic seems to be a major problem that won't go away, and local churches remain worried about the impact of the race on Sunday morning services.

"We have never objected to the event itself," said the Rev. Stephen J. Tisinger of Christ Our Anchor Presbyterian Church just off College Parkway, which will be affected by the race. "My concern has always been ... people having access to the faith communities.

"There are numerous options I think they have in terms of routes and times," he said. "We seem to have a lot of these types of things. ... Everybody says, 'It's only one Sunday, accommodate it,' but eventually it's every Sunday."

He would be happy with a Sunday afternoon, Tisinger said, and he would even come out to bless the swimmers.

Smith said the afternoon wasn't a good option because it would affect more businesses, which tend to open later on Sundays, and an increase in heat and choppy waters would be more dangerous for athletes.

Their goals for the race are to raise money for charitable causes and promote healthy living. The race benefits Anne Arundel Community College, to which race co-founders Smith and Jeremy Parks have pledged a $25,000 endowment for students from at-risk neighborhoods.

"We honestly didn't make a whole lot of money last year," Smith said. They spent about $200,000 last year and dealt with many last-minute expenses, but managed to give $5,000 to start the endowment.

"You have to grow an event," he said. He says he hopes that greater recognition - such as being ranked the 13th best new race by Inside Tri athlon magazine - will bring greater sponsorship.

In addition, Smith said, the race promotes alternative transportation as well as an active lifestyle.

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