Trying to find middle ground

CHRISTOPHER CAMERON � THE NEWS

Members of the Pictou County YMCA Tri Club leave Melmerby Beach on their bikes. There were 19 members that did all three triathlon events, with a few additional members that did the cycling and running events. They put together the training event the...

Published on July 28, 2013

Triathlon organizers hope to get event back on track

MELMERBY � There were no winners and losers, no official timing and not too much of a rush in the transition area.

The 2013 Melmerby Triathlon was slated to run yesterday, but due to issues with permits there was no event, not officially anyways.

Nineteen members of the local Pictou County YMCA Tri Club participated in all three triathlon events as part of a training day on Sunday, with five more doing the biking or running events.

Terry Curley, a race organizer, said that holding the training day allowed members of their group to have the opportunity to do it, as well as to gather and show their displeasure that the event was cancelled.

“This was the original date for the triathlon and as you can see we have a pretty strong membership in our club,� said Curley. “They said despite the fact we can’t get a permit that they all want to come down and do the event and do it like we have the last 30 years.�

The question the organizing committee originally asked is why, after 30 years, are there suddenly safety concerns. Curley said the permit for the event comes from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, but the local RCMP input majorly impacts the decision as to whether they get a permit or not.

“The RCMP are the ones that have the safety concerns about our course, so if they have the safety concerns we feel they should come to the table and have the discussions about how they can satisfy those concerns and what resources they provide to satisfy those safety concerns,� said Curley. “We’re willing to meet them halfway. Safety is paramount with us as well, but we don’t feel after 30 years that we should have to reroute or readjust our course. We feel the route we have is the one we need to have for the event to be successful and it has been.�

Staff Sgt. Steve Halliday of the Pictou County District RCMP said their concerns were having a two-lane secondary highway having cyclists and runners going at the same time in different directions, the number of intersections involved and the ability to control them so participants are safe.

“From our perspective, what transpired was there was a debrief with the event organizers and other stakeholders involved in the organization of this event to reflect on how it went and what we learned,� said Halliday. “From the observations of some of our people on the ground at last years event there were a number of safety concerns raised that all of stakeholders, including the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal were involved in debriefing on.

“From the RCMP standpoint, we have an obligation and a moral responsibility to ensure that if there are concerns that have been identified where there’s a potential risk to the public, we have to bring those forward and have discussion around those.�

When asked why the RCMP has safety concerns now, even though the event has run for 30 years, Halliday said things evolve.

“I think there are a number of factors that impact on those decisions,� he said. “I think as with anything over 30 years, things evolve. Anything from the number of vehicles that are there, the number of residents that now reside there and also the recognition of the responsibility that rests with various organizations to examine their due diligence in making sure they have taken all the steps to assess the risk and put things in place to mitigate it where we can. That has evolved over the last 30 years as you can well imagine.�

Curley said the organizers plan to start discussions with the RCMP again in September for next year’s event. He said they want to agree on what needs to be done to make it a safe event and what resources need to be provided by both parties so they don’t need to modify the triathlon. He believes their route is safe, citing the past number of years and there being no major issues.

“I believe for this to work and for them to not have safety concerns that they need to provide the resources to close the road between the beach and the store. You don’t even need to close it; you just need to restrict it,� said Curley. “We’re willing to work with them in terms of what we have to do with signage, volunteers � but that’s what needs to happen. I see them closing roads for everything � for parades, for beer gardens, for street dances. Well, we’re asking them to close it or restrict it to local traffic for our event.

“We didn’t feel during the discussions that they were willing to entertain that, so that will be the discussion going forward.�

Pictou Centre MLA Ross Landry was at the training session on Sunday to show his support for the local triathlon. He said he is committed to working with the group to help facilitate positive discussions and to ensure the triathlon continues.

Halliday said the RCMP are supportive of the event and want to find a way to ensure the safety of participants and those driving on the roads in the future.

“It’s regrettable that so many people have put the time and training into preparing for an event like this and then not having it go ahead,� he said. “I understand the frustration and we’re not pointing fingers or picking sides on that, but we do have a responsibility to make sure the participants and the public in that area have the opportunity to participate safely and travel those roads safely as well.�

christopher.cameron@ngnews.ca

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