With more than 12,000 runners and walkers expected to spill into Clatsop County in August, organizers of the annual Hood to Coast relay said Wednesday evening they were concerned about the county’s newly adopted regulations for large social gatherings.
And the county listened.
The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners agreed at its meeting to make conditional changes to an ordinance passed in December. The ordinance revised the county’s role in managing social gatherings held throughout the county’s unincorporated areas.
The board agreed to change some language of the ordinance, making it clear that the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office would be the agency in charge of rerouting or, in the case of an “extreme emergency,” shutting down the event.
Robert Foote, the founder of Hood to Coast, said organizers of the relay were “thrown a curve” during this year’s permitting process. Changes to the permitting process for the county’s large-scale gatherings – such as Hood to Coast, Birkfest and the Run 21 Motorcycle Rally – placed stricter stipulations on the events and allowed the county to shut them down in the case of an emergency.
“Because of the complexity of the permitting, we spent several weeks responding to the 30 items (in the permit application),” Foote said.
Highlighting provisions in the permitting process that were unclear, Foote called the county’s new ordinance too over-reaching and nebulous with its language. In particular, he said some language in the ordinance appeared to give the county the ability to arbitrarily shutdown the event for undefined reasons.
State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, attended the meeting via telephone and recommended that the organizers of Hood to Coast and the county meet to discuss the future of the event and any new changes that may arise.
Organizers of Hood to Coast have already agreed to make certain concessions for their event, such as limiting the number of teams that can participate. That’s because the county fields complaints every year about bumper-to-bumper traffic caused by runners and walkers on the sides of highways, as well as water bottles strewn along roadways. Relay organizers have hired a local team this year to provide cleanup at the end of the event.
Commissioner Patricia Roberts said she believes the majority of Clatsop County residents support the relay.
The Hood to Coast relay was founded in 1982 as a fundraising event. In the last two decades, teams of 12 walkers and runners make a 199-mile trek from Mt. Hood’s Timberline Lodge to Seaside.
Board Chairman Peter Huhtala said it was not the Board’s intention to single out the organizers of Hood to Coast with the ordinance.
“I’m sorry you had difficulty with the new application,” Huhtala said. “The board created a revised ordinance and maybe it’s too tough, but not everybody who applies to this will be as well versed as (Hood to Coast).”
In other board business:
• The Board approved the county’s 2012-13 fiscal year budget. Before approving the $56 million budget, the Board made one adjustment. The adjustment called for a reducing the county’s marine patrol budget.
• Cascade Networks Inc. was awarded a contract to install a microwave link that will connect the Camp Rilea Emergency Operations Center communications tower with the Megler Mountain site. The contract stipulates that the cost of the project cannot exceed $57,768
This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.