Friday, October 30, 2009

It's hit the Big Time now!

Cyclocross race must change locations after park permit pulled

A cyclocross bike race set for Saturday in West Seattle was canceled only four days before the event over what the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department calls a bureaucratic snafu.

By Marc Ramirez

Seattle Times staff reporter

A cyclocross bike race set for Saturday was canceled only four days before the event in what the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department calls a bureaucratic snafu, leaving hundreds of local cyclocross enthusiasts all revved up with no place to go — temporarily, at least.

On Tuesday, the city officially notified Seattle's Low Pressure Promotions that it was revoking its permit to hold the race at West Seattle's Lincoln Park, an event it had been planning for months.

"It's unfortunate," said Zac Daab, co-promoter of the event. "... With the timing, I don't feel like we were given any sort of recourse to either prove ourselves or to sort out from a community standpoint how to move forward."

Daab's organization was able to negotiate a last-minute venue with King County Parks, but the cyclocross community remained upset about the city's handling of the matter.

In an e-mail, Seattle parks officials cited three reasons for the permit revocation — resident complaints, the potential for damage and an earlier department decision not to allow such events at Lincoln Park after a similar event by another promoter caused "significant damage" in 2003.

Parks Department spokeswoman Dewey Potter said information about the 2003 decision was likely part of the institutional knowledge lost when a parks employee died several years ago, leaving current scheduling staff unaware.

"They were erroneous in issuing the permit for the event, basically," she said.

Asked why such important criteria regarding park usage had not been noted in writing, Potter responded: "That's a good question. This incident makes it clear that we need to do that."

Event organizers "absolutely acted in good faith," she said. "It was our mistake ... . We feel bad for the inconvenience to them and all their people."

Cyclocross is a European-based sport featuring road bikes racing on a three-kilometer course, a combination of grass, pavement and dirt.

Word of the race's cancellation set the blogosphere ablaze Tuesday, with 50 comments posted on West Seattle Blog in less than two hours.

Most were from cyclocross advocates, venting about the last-minute decision and the perception that parks officials had been swayed by a few vocal residents.

Potter said the permit was revoked not only because of resident objections but because the event, expected to draw up to 600 riders and an equal number of fans, was too large. "(Lincoln Park is) designed for small-scale recreation," she said. "It doesn't have the capacity to accommodate an event of this size."

Thus, the department's special-events committee should have been informed, she said — a rationale Daab finds mysterious since the race's expected turnout was noted on previous application materials.

The department has offered to refund $500 in fees to the group. Other venues it suggested either had unsuitable terrain or were already booked.

On Wednesday, Daab was able to negotiate terms with King County to hold the race at White Center's Lakewood Park — on Saturday, as originally scheduled.

"Typically, venues take months to confirm," he said.

No comments: