Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Irma blows away local event schedule

BWL Column
The News-Press, 10/12/2017
by Ken Gooderham

(Photo: Liam James Doyle/Naples Daily News)
Besides its impact on vegetation, screen enclosures and structures in general, Irma also shredded the local run/bike schedule last month – and even into this month.

Hardest hit were local triathlons (the one time of year you can realistically hold them) and running events (which were just getting underway after a long, hot summer). Even now, some events are struggling to stay on schedule. For example, the 9th annual FISH 10K on Sanibel set for Oct. 28 may feature a new route to accommodate vegetation cleanup on the island.

Cancelling an annual and anticipated event is a disappointment for the participants, who trained hard to get ready and who often look forward to seeing fellow athletes and enjoying a good time. It’s also disappointing for event organizers, who have spent months getting things ready for the event while also spending plenty of money in event merchandise, vendors and permitting. (Most of these expenses have to be paid up front, and likely are not refundable.)

The logistical challenges of holding a group athletic event are many, compounded by both the length of the race in both time and distance as well as very real concerns about safety for athletes, volunteers and the general public. Even weeks after the storm blows through, it can be risky to stage an event if roadways are still clogged with debris (or with the trucks picking it up) or the necessary race infrastructure (roads, parking lots, beaches, golf courses etc.) is still being impacted by the post-storm recovery.

Safety for all is paramount, both to event organizers and to the local public safety officials who often have a major say in whether an event gets to go forward. If you’re holding an event on public property, you need a permit – and that permit includes safety plans as well as requirements from local police, fire and EMS officials that must be met for the event to be allowed. That’s good news for having a safe and pleasant experience, but it’s also a standard that race organizers must meet to proceed. (It’s a standard organizers are always happy to meet, since holding an unsafe event is a fast way to lose repeat customers – literally.)

Sometimes events can be rescheduled, if the length and logistics are simple and there’s an opening in the calendar to make that work. But often, getting the permits and other permissions in a different time of year is impossible… I mean, do you think anyone is going to agree to close a public road in season for a few hours?

And when it comes to runs, with something scheduled almost every weekend through November if your event can’t go off on its planned date it’s just unrealistic to move it without hurting someone else’s event (and it’s a small community when it comes to race organizing, so they all try to work together… mostly).

The other losers in the event disruption can be the nonprofits that may profit from an event’s income. No event, no funds, no donation… and a big hole in the budget. Fortunately, often event sponsors will agree to allow their payments to be directed to the charity in question (a round for applause for that generosity) or event organizers find a way to make some level of donation to a much needed community service.

Hopefully, upcoming events will have good weather and clear skies – and things can continue to get back to normal.

Meanwhile on the paths…

Speaking of normal, area bike and walkways are continuing to slowly recover from Irma’s wrath. The reopening of Lakes Park was good news, although trees still down on the Gladiolus Drive and Daniels Parkway paths have made travel on those heavily used routes treacherous.

Too many lanes and sidewalks are still impassable due to downed trees and debris as the one-month anniversary of Irma arrives. The slow pace of debris pickup is frustrating for all, as is the debris being left in (or not being removed from) public roads, sidewalks and lanes. It’s a hazard on many levels that needs to be addressed… but yelling at people probably won’t get anything done faster.

If you want to haul your own debris away, the county has opened collection sites to make that possible. The Solid Waste folks have also set up a special website to show where collections are happening now and where the next pickups are planned. (You can also see progress in overall pickups, which right now is not a very heartening sight.) Go to and click on “Hurricane Irma Daily Updates” for information.

Let’s hope that the county and its contractors start picking up the pace for picking up debris, and that private property owners whose trees have fallen on public rights-of-way get those trimmed and moved soon so vehicles, bikes and pedestrians can get through.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? Scheduled events include the Cops & Joggers 5K on Saturday evening at Centennial Park in Fort Myers; Rocktoberfest 10-miler on Sunday at North Collier Regional Park; and if you really want to get a long run in, the Gulf to Gulf 80 Mile Relay that starts and ends at Cambier Park in Naples on Oct. 21. Go online for details to, and respectively – and it’s wise to check that the event is actually going off as planned.

Ride? Look for the regular Critical Mass rides (but remember that debris-strewn streets may screw up some best-laid plans): Friday is the NE Lee ride at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday is the Sanibel ride; and Oct. 20 is the Estero ride. These are all night rides so lights are required, helmets recommended, and details and sign-up info is online at Looking for a traditional group ride? There’s the Tour de North Port on Oct. 22 with 15-, 35- and 65-mile options and an off-road ride as well. Go to for details.

Both? Nothing on the horizon, alas.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 


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