If there’s a major running event in Harford County next year that brings in participants from all over the region and beyond, how many people is too many?
That’s a question folks around Harford County, particularly in Havre de Grace, probably need to answer before the proposed Susquehanna Bridge Running Fest, set for next September in Havre de Grace and Perryville, gets too much further along in the planning stage.
According to organizers, between 3,000 and 5,000 runners are expected to be lured to Harford County and Havre de Grace for the festival that includes a half marathon race on both sides of the Susquehanna River.. As the festival’s name implies, the route of the 13.1-mile (21.09K) half marathon will include runners crossing and recrossing the Thomas J. Hatem Route 40 bridge over the Susquehanna River on a scenic course through Harford and neighboring Cecil County.
The event will benefit Harford County’s Al Cesky Scholarship Fund, Inc., as worthy a nonprofit organization as we have in Harford County, so there should be no concern about this running festival being planned and managed in a correct way.
There are, however, a number of contingencies that even the best plans can’t necessarily foresee, and that’s what gives us pause. Havre de Grace city officials raised a few of them when the event was brought to them for approval last week. They gave the go-ahead, but with some reluctance, which is understandable because their city and its residents will bear the biggest impacts, good and bad.
Running is a major participant sport for folks of all ages in Harford County and points beyond. Over the years, Bill Blewett’s excellent coverage of running that has appeared in The Aegis and at www.theaegis.com has been one of our readers favorite features. Running events, often used to raise funds for charity, draw thousands of people to Harford each year, and thousands of local runners head out of the county on many a weekend to run in regional and national events.
To bring even 3,000 runners and assorted family members to the county would be a big boost for local businesses and tourism in general, particularly in Havre de Grace. But that’s a big crowd, that will generate traffic, trash and security concerns. We think the city and Cesky Scholarship folks can work out a reasonable plan for the traffic and where to park all those vehicles, at the expense of the sponsoring organization.
What’s more concerning, however, is the security aspects of an event this size that will stretch out for miles on both sides of the river and encompass the heavily used highway bridge and parts of neighboring Perryville. A big event with lots of people in this day and age is no longer just that, it’s also a security risk.
As an organization that has long supported the Al Cesky Fund and its objectives, we’d like to see the Susquehanna Running Fest go off next year without a hitch and for many years to come. Who can argue against providing scholarship’s to Harford County’s top scholar athletes, which the fund has been doing for more than three decades.
It’s necessary to plan carefully and be prepared and to truthfully assess the cost of providing adequate security before this event happens. If it’s not going to be feasible, people may be disappointed, but they also should understand the realities of contemporary America. Risk must be minimized before the first entry fee can be accepted.