106 West Triathlon irritates some, but county says event is worth it
The highest triathlon in the world arrives in Summit County with its inaugural event this Saturday, Sept. 10, but disruptions the race will create are aggravating some locals.
Some are raising concerns over access to residents’ homes, the length of time of road closures and entry points for fire and ambulance crews if an emergency were to arise. The complete shutdown of Montezuma Road in particular, for both those who live along the road and in unincorporated portions of the county and use it as their sole means for getting home is a primary point of contention.
“How on earth can they justify closing over 5 miles of road that has residents on it for around six hours on a Saturday when there are other alternatives?” said Bette Squeglia, a resident who lives just below the Montezuma border above Peru Creek. “It’s not an emergency, it’s completely optional and no one has said that that race could not have run another route. I’m also concerned that it’s setting a precedent.”
The county’s partner agencies are not intending to let the race get in the way of daily operations, however, even if it does mean granting organizers of the 106° West Triathlon a handful of special circumstances that will have to be managed. The closures are expected to last from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. while competitors swim, run and bike through the towns of Dillon and Montezuma, Keystone and other connectors through the community.
“We’re going to respond to emergencies,” said Steve Lipsher, spokesman for Lake Dillon Fire Rescue. “We are aware of the road closures and have made contingencies to be able to provide our normal emergency response, and if we have emergency calls, we have sirens and big engines. We have ways of getting through crowds.”
Specific closures for the event include: Dillon Dam Road from the Heaton Bay Campground to Highway 6, all eastbound lanes of Highway 6 to Montezuma Road, Montezuma Road, West Lodgepole Street in Dillon and Lake Dillon Drive to Dillon Marina.
The Dillon Marina acts as the main junction for the transitions between legs, including a 1.2-mile swim through Dillon Reservoir that had to receive approval through Denver Water. The county, CDOT, Colorado State Patrol, local police departments and other emergency responders were also included in discussions so everyone was on the same page in green-lighting the 73-mile Ironman and 36.5-mile quarter-Ironman contests.
“Colorado is known for sports and recreation and tourism, and it’s great that Dillon can put itself on the map within that context in the state,” said Kerstin Anderson, Dillon’s director of communication and marketing. “This being a slower time of the year, we looked at it as an extension of our summer-season business and extending the season for restaurants and lodging, and just getting people comfortable with being up here in the fall months.”
The event has a projected capacity of 2,500, but registration has been a bit lower than its first-year target of 1,200 racers. So far about 700 have signed up from across the country and also internationally, many bringing with them two-to-three members of support crew, so still bringing a noteworthy number of people through the county this weekend. But it’s these weekend additions — and those subtractions in travel because of it — that still has some irked.
While hosted by Dillon on several of its town-managed roads, whether the proposed triathlon route was utilized was ultimately the county’s decision. Highway 6 is overseen by CDOT, but Montezuma Road is owned and operated by county government, and so long as proper notifications and impact-reduction strategies were followed, the county was happy to lend its seal of approval. Squeglia argues that while Montezuma locals may have gotten proper notice, she did not, and believes other unincorporated residents may not have either.
“I know that these things are inconvenient, and we fully recognize it,” said Thad Noll, assistant county manager. “But we decided the inconvenience was good for the whole county and we were willing to accept that. A lot of work was done to minimize the number of people who are blocked, and those being blocked along Montezuma Road were given several options for mitigating it, though not erasing it. There’s still an impact, for sure.” Alternative routes and back entries through Keystone Resort in some cases have been set up. For others who cannot get to their homes by these means, event organizer Human Movement established a shuttle service with use of a four-seat ATV for transport. Residents and tenants who still did not wish to deal with the hassle were given the option to be put up in a condo in Keystone. At least four Montezuma townspeople went that route.
Organizers also provided the town of Montezuma a lump sum of $3,400, which was spent toward a town picnic in August, to help offset the annoyance. Montezuma Mayor Lesley Davis acknowledged that the road closures are not ideal, but also that she and the town’s board were satisfied with organizers’ efforts to alleviate potential snags. The town didn’t have much choice in the matter anyway, she said, so are making the most of it.
“It wasn’t really up to us,” said Davis. “Bottom line, it’s not our road and we need to share the wilderness. I’m not sure what the value is (to Dillon), but it’s only one afternoon and is a positive, athletic, outdoor event, which is something we want to promote. We’re looking forward to a fun weekend.”
Worries persist about the race becoming an annual event, as well as how the introduction of Montezuma Road — already a well-traversed cycling artery — to even more bike enthusiasts may impact future use.
“I’m not against the bike race,” said Squeglia, “and I understand the benefits for the county. My question was why on earth would they allow it to run up Montezuma Road when it requires it to be closed? There are other bike races here and they run different routes, routes that have multiple access points or routes where there are no private homes. And for six hours on Saturday, I don’t have any reasonable access, to or from.”
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