Planning Running Events in Dallas Just Got More Difficult

Photo by George Vasquez.

When I first heard about the new regulations that are going into effect today for running events, I was a little upset. I like to run. (Or, at least, I like to think I like to run, and by run, I mean walk with bounce.) I like when others run. I also like activity on the streets of Dallas. So anything that makes it harder for people to run on the streets of Dallas makes me a little upset. “But,” people said to me, “what about those who live in houses who can’t get out of their driveways because of runners? What about those who wake up to the sound of runners chatting as they pass their windows? What about those who can’t get to church because the streets are blocked off?” I live in an apartment downtown. Streets get shut down, noises filter through my windows. I have very little sympathy.

Then I talked to the woman who designed the regulations. Her name is Lori Chance. She really believes in what she’s done. If there’s anything that can melt my hardened heart it’s someone who believes in their work. So I talked to a couple other people who are involved in this situation and below is what they said. I tried to be unbiased, because I really do understand both sides. You can yell at me in the comments if you think I failed at that.

Two years ago, Lori Chance, manager of the Office of Special Events, started doing a study of how many running events take place in town. Then she looked at when they were taking place, and where.  At that time, she had been head of the department for three years. She realized that around the same time each year, she was getting complaints from citizens about streets being closed and runners clogging neighborhoods. So, along with all the other responsibilities included in her title, she started working on her study.

Today, the guidelines and regulations resulting from her study go into effect.

Chance found that there are about 115 permits given for races each year in Dallas. Of those 115, 78 had fewer than 1,000 people, and 54 of the events were taking place around White Rock Lake. “So with 52 weeks of the year, every weekend, sometimes Saturday and Sunday, White Rock streets were being impacted,” Chance says. “What happens is when you get to the point of the big events that bring economic value to the city, like White Rock Marathon (now Dallas Marathon), Rock and Roll Half Marathon, and the Hot Chocolate Run, there’s no tolerance left by the citizens.”

The regulations that go into effect today are directly aimed at trying to alleviate these problems. One regulation is that streets cannot be shut down 10 days before or after another event. Another is that if an event has fewer than 1,000 people, it has to stay off the streets and keep to the trails.

This has Jill Beam, special events manager for the City Parks Department, concerned. She’s the one who permits all the parks’ races. “I can schedule Bachman Lake, Santa Fe Trail, White Rock Creek Trail, and Cottonwood Trail,” she says. “White Rock Lake is just already too saturated with events going on annually, so I can’t put any new races there. We’re kind of at a gridlock of putting races at these other locations.”

One popular destination for runs is the Katy Trail. But because of the new regulations, the Friends of the Katy Trial decided last week to take it under their control. Now, if a race wants to run on the 3.5-mile stretch, the organizers have to go through the Friends instead of Beam. And the Friends are going to be rather discretionary.

Beam has been in her position for 11 years. When asked about her feelings of the new regulations, she admits she’s “a little concerned.”

Peggy Munroe is 49 years old, but looks much younger. She’s currently training for the Marine Corps Marathon, which takes places this month. She’s also nearing the end of her terms as president of the Dallas Running Club, a 43-year-old organization that hosts several larger runs and small monthly runs for its members. (Full disclosure: I’m one of those members. I met Munroe during a very hilly 9-mile run in the summer. We started discussing the new regulations while running up Flag Pole Hill, but then I got tired and walked while Munroe kept going. I had to ask follow-up questions through email.)

It’s not easy being president of a running club. Munroe has had many obstacles when setting up runs–scheduling around other races, acquiring cops to direct traffic, and finding parking for all the runners. She’s worried the new regulations will make it more difficult. But she gets neighbors’ frustrations. Having your driveway blocked by runners or waking up on a Sunday morning to water cups strewn on your lawn isn’t ideal. “I don’t know an easy fix,” she says. “The running community has exploded. It’s everywhere.”

When Munroe started at the DRC in 1999, there were 1,900 members. Today, there are 4,400. Chance is not a runner, but understands why running and races have become so popular. When she finished her study, she invited the running clubs to join in on a meeting outlining the new regulations. “They all received it well,” Chance says. She’s putting together a taskforce of the running clubs to look at how the new regulations do or don’t work. For now, these new regulations are incorporated in only certain parts of the city. If the runs start expanding and impacting other streets, Chance will then decide if the regulations need to be expanded.

Though not everyone is excited about the changes (see my intro), Chance believes in the new regulations. “I’m hoping once I get some stuff off the street, I’ll go, ‘Oh, I don’t have a problem anymore.’”

 

 

15 comments on “Planning Running Events in Dallas Just Got More Difficult

  1. The number of small races at WRL has gotten a little ridiculous, as someone who runs and rides at the lake they make it tougher to get out on a weekend; and they dilute the competition when you do want to race. The new regs seem to be well thought out and are worth a shot.

  2. How does the Friends of Katy “take it into their own hands” Doesn’t City money pay for everything there?

  3. Mara: my question exactly. Does the city still OK proposals or is it all up to FOTKT? I understand that organization has done a bunch (beyond the capability of the City) to improve the trail, but who are the gatekeepers there, Krista? Does FTLOTL or similar organization have “control” over WRL?

  4. I can attest to the nuisance of the Turtle Creek runs. In addition to blocked streets, there’s usually loud rock music booming away.

  5. Katy Trail is funded by the Friends of the Katy Trail. It’s through their memberships, drives, and 5K that the fountains are built and benches are placed. If you want to have a run on the trail, it goes through the Friends. (Then, I believe, they have to get the appropriate permitting.) If you wanted to do a run at, say, Reverchon, that would go through the city.
    I’ve got a call in to Robin Baldock, the executive director of the Friends of the Katy Trail, to see exactly what it takes for an organization to take control of its trail. I’ve been told it was a lengthy process, but don’t know yet what it all entailed. I’ll update you as soon as I’ve heard back.

  6. Mara – No the City does not pay for everything on the Katy Trail. The Trail is privately funded. Majority of the funds come from the Katy 5k, Annual Support Campaign and private donations. All the landscaping, water, lights, and security is paid for by the Friends. http://www.katytraildallas.org.

  7. Isn’t there room for all this runing and biking in the country, like mid-cities? Since nothing seems to going on at Jerry World. They only have 7 games a year and they have built new highways to get to those 7 games. And there doesn’t seem like much else going on out there. Today a BIKE lane is being installed on KNOX Avenue? The street is already too thin, where are they going with that 75??? WHO IS RUNNING THIS SHOW?

  8. Speaking of bicycle races, we need to return Crit races to central Dallas (downtown, Uptown, Deep Ellum, etc)

  9. As a resident of a neighborhood that gets regularly closed down because of these runs, I say thank you. Part of the problem in the White Rock/Lakewood area is that the streets were frequently closed with no notice to residents and with no notice of reopening. There were also very few crossing points on the route both on foot and by vehicle, so we would be trapped in our neighborhoods for a good portion of every weekend.

  10. I have to chime in with ELH. The races are OK but there is no plan set up for communication of events and closures . Nothing chaps my *** more than to drive over to White Rock Lake to sail or paddle and not be allowed to even enter the park. I recently had a person drive quite a distance to meet me there to try out a boat I was selling. Guess what…we couldn’t get into the park due to the Arboretum’s recent race that tied up both sides of the lake and I lost a sale. Between the Windfrey Point debacle and street closures, the Arboretum is currently not one of my favorite places. Also, in the past, there have been sailing regattas scheduled with out of state sailors arriving and not being allowed to enter.

    The White Rock Marathon does a great job of announcing their course routes and closures via neighborhood flyers, TV exposure, their website, newspapers, etc. Obviously not every race in town has that clout or organization for notification. It is a no-brainer to me…If the park department is continuing to issue permits they must come up with some kind of widely publicized online website to notify in advance of any larger events and street closures. How difficult can such a simple but positive action be?

  11. As both a runner and a Lakewood area resident, I can see both sides. I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam due to a race or tried desperately to find an alternate route to get home. It’s frustrating and I understand but I also know it’s the “price” I pay to live where I do – near the running/cycling Mecca of White Rock Lake.

    My concerns come from the restrictions to have these “smaller” (less than 1000) races confined ONLY to trails. I am a big proponent and user of many of our trails – White Rock Lake, Santa Fe Trail and Katy Trail in particular. WRL Trail is wide enough in many spots to allow hundreds of runners to be on both sides of the path without major issues, but Santa Fe and Katy really are not and races using these trails really need SOME kind of neighborhood street access. For the most part, races using these trails are 5ks which when all is said and done, might block a road for an hour or two and while inconvenient, I think that 1) better notification to the surrounding neighborhoods and 2) perhaps putting a limit on the number of competing 5ks that go on every weekend could help a lot. Running has really taken off in DFW and I think that’s fantastic, but I wonder at why there are SO many races that compete and detract from one another making it so no charity makes much money. Maybe better cooperation with the surrounding areas and the city would help alleviate some of the problems.

  12. This is great news. As someone who bikes and runs the lake and lives in the neighborhood around the lake, it was getting fairly frustrating. Driving in the neighborhood was a nightmare at some point every single weekend. Plus, I am always so thrilled to see the lake being used by people from all over the city, but when you close the streets down, the only people that can use it are the participants in the race and those lucky enough to be able to walk there.

    I also agree that we need a centralized place to post the schedule for events at the lake, as well as closures required.