Road issues bring future Hampton marathons into question
HAMPTON - Selectmen are unlikely to approve any future marathons if those races are likely to tie up small roads.
Concerns about inconvenience were raised by residents following the 2013 Smuttynose Rockfest in early October, which included a half-marathon and a marathon with about 5,000 participants.
On Oct. 28, the board discussed the issue with police Chief Jamie Sullivan.
Selectman Mary-Louise Woolsey said she received a postcard that her street would be used for about an hour the morning of the race, but the holdup lasted through the afternoon.
Chairman Rick Nichols said the organizer of that race has already been in touch with Sullivan to work out an alternative route that uses fewer of the town's secondary roads.
Sullivan said about 19 special events were held in town this year, including races, parades, the Special Olympics Penguin Plunge and the Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, and most created no problems, including various 5K road races.
He said the Granite State Wheelmen's Century Ride was held for 20 years without any problem, until this year, when a driver struck four cyclists, killing two of them and seriously injuring the others. The driver has been charged.
Nichols said the discussion was not prompted by the accident, but by the inconvenience caused by the Oct. 6 marathon.
Sullivan said he feels very comfortable with the events held in town and believes they are safe.
"I agree more of the feedback I've gotten is the inconvenience issue," Sullivan said. "I am challenged with these marathons that run through these small roads . I don't like that because they are very difficult to control. That is a concern of ours," Sullivan said.
He said other communities have eliminated or reduced the number and size of road races, including the Portsmouth.
Woolsey said she had no problem with the police department's efforts to control the race, or with the race organizers and felt there was good communication between theparties.
"But to tie up the . public roads for all that time . it was ridiculous," she said, adding that she will not sign a permit for these massive races in the future.
Nichols said he does not think smaller races are a problem and suggested organizers of larger races should work with the police department to minimize the effect on town roads.
He said he does not think he would support a Smuttynose race next year if it closed as many roads.
Selectman Philip Bean said he would not support any race larger than a 10K.
The meeting came about a week before the Manchester marathon, being held today.
Race director Jayne Cornell said the Anthem Manchester City Marathon is run mainly on larger roads, although parts of the course do go through some neighborhoods.
She said they have a close working relationship with the Manchester Police Department and work every year to improve the course.
It has been altered to avoid a few major intersections where problems have occurred and to incorporate trails and bike paths at three locations to minimize the impact of runners on traffic and to provide a scenic run.
Course monitors and police are staged at 26 locations to direct runners, and signs are posted two weeks in advance to remind the public when it is occurring and to watch for runners along the route.