At its Feb. 24 meeting, Huntsville Council approved the 2020 Ironman 70.3 Muskoka triathlon run route which will mean the closure of Brunel Road from Park Drive to North Mary Lake Road for several hours on Sunday, July 12.
Town manager of sales and customer service, Greg Pilling, was before council with Nick Stoehr, owner of TriSport and the producer of Ironman in Muskoka.
Pilling told council the municipality has two more years left in its contract with TriSport (2020, 2021), at which point it will have an option to renew its contract for three additional years.
Pilling spoke to council about the benefits of hosting the event in the form of charitable donations to community groups, funds spent in the community to organize the event, as well as the economic spinoff of triathletes, and their supporters, coming to the municipality. “It stimulates the local economy… and advertises Huntsville to the world and attracts growth and business and residents,” he said.
He told council that as a result of a public meeting held on February 20 to gather input on the proposed routes, staff and organizers have come up with ways to try and mitigate the discontent among residents affected by the proposed route.
He said the closure of Brunel has been reduced from about six hours to three hours and 45 minutes. He also said a minor adjustment in the race route means North Mary Lake Road will remain open with residents being rerouted through Lockview Road to Brunel and then south during the closure times.
“This does reduce the impact on the affected residents that were landlocked. Originally it was 491 [residences], it’s now 260,” he told council.
He also said TriSport will be organizing a location for residents impacted along Brunel Road to go to. “Coffee, tea, and snacks will be available to accommodate those that need to go to town earlier, for those who cannot get home until after the road is closed,” he said, adding that WiFi will also be available. “And we provide free overnight parking in a municipal lot for those who need to park their car the night before the race if that’s going to affect their commute to work on Sunday.”
Pilling said road closures and a welcoming centre for those impacted would be communicated further. He said information would also be shared with race organizers about the municipality’s noise bylaw and a parking plan will be put in place for triathlon participants and their families to avoid parking on residential side streets. Pilling also noted that emergency response vehicles would have access to the area at all times.
Brunel Councillor Dan Armour questioned whether residents impacted along Brunel Road could leave if they had an emergency and needed to go to the hospital, for example. Pilling said there would be an OPP officer at each intersection. “I’ve already been working with the OPP on suggested and proposed locations for them… they’ll be at those intersections so if somebody needs some sort of service, then OPP can help them get to where they need to be or figure out a plan as it kind of arises,” he explained.
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe wanted to know what measures could be put in place for those who have to go to work on the day of the race and are financially impacted by the event. “So we talk about how great this is for the community and it’s a boon, et cetera, but there may actually be people who are directly affected in a really negative way,” he said.
Stoehr said that had been discussed which is why a location is being offered for those who need to leave earlier in order to get to work. He said notice would go out to residents weeks before the event, which will be thoroughly advertised. “And if there is a direct concern they can certainly call us and we can work with them and maybe make some sort of arrangement on a case-by-case basis if that is a problem… We definitely don’t want to put anybody out of work.”
Armour said the constituents he’d heard from were not necessarily against the event but simply the route, particularly because that area sees multiple events and the triathlon is scheduled for the height of summer when there are more people in the area.
Councillor Tim Withey said he’d like to see planning and consultation take place earlier on “so we don’t get these situations where we’re feeling like we gotta do something and we gotta do it now,” he said, also noting that he’s not against the triathlon.
Downtown businesses along Huntsville’s Main Street have expressed opposition to having events like the triathlon in Huntsville’s downtown during their busiest time of the season. Pilling said various other routes were examined by a group that also comprised emergency response teams and said the Brunel route seemed like the best option. “This seemed to be the least impactful on the downtown core to try and free up the movement of traffic downtown.” He also noted that the route had to work for the athletes as well, in terms of terrain and safety.
In the end, council voted in favour of the Brunel route with councillors Armour and Withey voting against it.
Correction: Although it was not a recorded vote, Councillor Tim Withey contacted Doppler after this story was published to say that he too had voted against the route. The story has been changed to reflect that. We apologize for the omission.
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