As warm weather begins to arrive -- finally -- hopefully -- so too do the runners, walkers and folks who enjoy outdoor recreational events.
Among those events are numerous fun runs and walks, triathlons and similar events that draw a crowd. Those include, of course, the Charleston Distance Run, which attracts more than 1,000 runners for the 15-mile and 5-kilometer events.
The Susan G. Komen 5k race on Kanawha Boulevard in early May attracts about a thousand runners, walkers and friends. Others occur throughout the year, such as the Charleston Winter Series 5k, 8k and 10k runs in Kanawha City, Run with a Cop, Beat Beethoven and many more.
Often, these events are organized by non-profit organizations who charge a $25 or so fee, with proceeds benefiting a cause. These events also involve some coordination with city officials, primarily traffic control and road closures.
“As more and more groups want to use walks and runs as fundraisers, it’s leading to overtime costs for the city,” Rod Blackstone, assistant to the mayor, told the Daily Mail’s Matt Murphy.
In April, council will consider a proposed ordinance, Bill No. 7616, to charge race organizers $500 for use of an established race course. That fee “guarantee(s) the use of the approved course and the services of four uniformed police officers for traffic control.”
Races on Kanawha Boulevard would be charged $1,000, plus a fee of $1 per participant. The fee would include the services of eight police officers and the street department.
Event coordinators could request a fee waiver. Events sponsored by the city, such as the Charleston Distance Run, would not be charged.
Charleston now provides these services for free, but city officials want to be “responsible stewards of city resources and taxpayer dollars,” Blackstone said.
“We’re taking a long, hard look at everything related to the budget.”
Governments should regularly question every expenditure of time and money. That said, the city needs to be very cautious about pricing itself out of the recreational event business. Such events bring people into the city, who in turn are likely to visit restaurants, possibly stay overnight and, if they like the place, come back with friends.
It’s probably a safe bet that race organizers understand the city’s issues and will willingly pay a nominal fee to help the city recover some costs.
But fees of $500 and $1,000 may make the city of Charleston unaffordable, and neighboring towns may be more than happy to host such races, and attract those visitors to their restaurants and hotels instead.