Changes in marathon notifications, closures advance at city hall

Police cars blocked the street in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art last month during the North Face Endurance Challenge. After several years of complaints from residents and businesses about streets being closed, the city has developed a new policy designed to both encourage more races and reduce the impact on surrounding neighborhoods.

Following concerns from residents and businesses, the city council is considering a new plan to change procedures for marathons and other races.

According to Fourth District Council Representative Jan Marcason, the city and race promoters have been working for about a year to address several issues. She introduced a new ordinance yesterday to the Neighborhoods and Healthy Communities Committee, which sent it on to the full council for approval today.

“We want to promote Kansas City as a great place to have races,” she said. “It’s good for economic development. But we also want to minimize the impact on residents and businesses.”

Marcason says many of the race routes go through her Midtown district, and certain streets have been more impacted than others in the past. She’s received calls from churches that said their members were blocked from attending church, from businesses whose customers couldn’t get across police barricades, and grocery stores that said they were completely cut off by race routes.

Although the city required race promoters to notify the public in advance, the word didn’t always get out to everyone. Sometimes promoters notified those directly on the parade route, but not others who could also be caught at blocked intersection.

“I live one block off of Main Street and I have been stuck in my neighborhood,” she said.

She has been meeting with race promoters and others to work out a new system for handling races.

The Parks Department will take over the race permitting process. Currently Public Works handles races and parades, and Public Works will continue to handle parades. Meantime, the parks department is hiring a race coordinator to make it easier for race groups to hold events in Kansas City, as well to ensure notification of residents in advance. The department will also be responsible for promoting Kansas City as a race-friendly city.

The ordinance also calls for upgrading city technology so that promoters can file permits online. The ordinance calls for raising the fee for a permit from $50 to $100 and using the fees to pay for a staff person dedicated to making races run smoothly for everyone.

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