Revised Havre de Grace route for Running Festival gets city's OK

Approval from the Havre de Grace side of the Susquehanna River has been granted for September’s bi-county Susquehanna River Running Festival, an event expected to bring several thousand runners to Cecil and Harford counties.

Organizers are still working with entities such as the State Highway Administration, the Maryland Transportation Authority and the Town of Perryville, as well as the City of Havre de Grace, to finalize their plans. At least 3,000 runners are expected.

The Sept. 15 festival includes a 5K race through downtown Havre de Grace, starting and ending near Tydings Park, and a half-marathon and half-marathon relay through Havre de Grace, across the Route 40 Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, around Perryville and ending back at Tydings Park.

Proceeds will benefit the Al Cesky Scholarship Fund, which gives scholarships to 12 Harford County high school seniors each year.

The Havre de Grace City Council unanimously approved Monday an event application with a revised route for the Havre de Grace leg. The return portion of the initial route went along Juniata Street, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, as runners made their way back to Tydings Park.

“One of the things we were looking at from a traffic perspective is trying to open up the city and not creating some bottlenecks,” Sean McCone, an event organizer and treasurer and past president of the Cesky Scholarship Fund, said.

Organizers shifted from Juniata east to downtown. Runners will start by heading north on Union Avenue, make a slight left onto Water Street, take that to Adams Street, where 5K runners will turn right toward the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House and half-marathon runners will continue toward Route 40.

Half-marathon and 5K runners will return via Water Street to St. John Street, heading through downtown past Hutchins Park, along the waterfront past the Concord Point Lighthouse, then take a left on Lafayette Street and ending at Commerce Street and Lodge Lane in front of the park, according to documents included with the event application.

The races are expected to last from 8 to 11 a.m., according to the application.

McCone said the new route will have less of an impact on Havre de Grace residents and vehicle traffic, as motorists will not have to wait at the Juniata Street intersections with other major roads such as Revolution Street.

The new route should also put more spectators in the downtown business district, McCone said.

“The whole city would pretty much be open to vehicular traffic, almost all the way down to downtown,” he said.

McCone said the races could affect vehicle traffic on downtown streets, but people could park close by and see the runners.

“We could lessen that impact with some proactive communication about where the race is going to be and when it’s going to be,” he said.

McCone said organizers and representatives of the MdTA, which operates the Hatem Bridge, have a verbal commitment on race day patterns but no written agreement yet,

Race organizers and the MdTA have discussed allowing runners to use the bridge’s eastbound lanes, going toward Perryville, and eastbound traffic would be rerouted onto the westbound lanes. Traffic heading west would be directed to the I-95 Millard Tydings Memorial Bridge, according to McCone.

“I don’t foresee us going backwards from here,” he said in response to a question from Councilman Michael Hitchings about the status of the agreement with MdTA.

Council President David Glenn asked McCone if organizers have been working with the SHA. McCone said they have and agency representatives have expressed concerns about the impact on “signalized intersections” on the state-maintained Union Avenue.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman has expressed his support for the event, and the county government has been working with the state and the Cesky Scholarship Fund to facilitate the races.

Havre de Grace leaders have been more cautious. The council approved the initial application in December by a 4-2 vote, after concerns were aired about the traffic pattern on the bridge and how the city would handle an estimated influx of 3,000 to 5,000 runners.

Councilwoman Monica Worrell offered a motion that organizers must meet with the council if more than 3,000 people register, to which the council and Mayor William T. Martin agreed. The council then unanimously approved the revised application.

Event approvals

The running festival was one of several events the council approved Monday.

The council voted, unanimously, for applications for an April 14 craft beer festival at the Lock House; First Fridays downtown from April through October; the Havre de Grace Farmers Market in Hutchins Park from May through November; a shrimp and barbecue festival June 2 in Hutchins Park to support the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum; a July 15 Sam Grow concert in Hutchins Park to support the St. Baldrick’s Foundation; the 55th annual Havre de Grace Art Show Aug. 18 and 19 in Tydings Park; the Sept. 8 Children’s Art Festival in Tydings Park; the second annual Havre de Grace Out of the Darkness Walk Sept. 29 in Tydings Park to raise money for local suicide prevention programs, and the annual Oktoberfest Oct. 13 in Hutchins Park.

The Susquehanna Hose Company has hosted a head-shaving event each year since 2014 to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to support pediatric cancer research.

Scott Hurst, chief of the volunteer fire company, told city leaders the Sam Grow concert in July should raise another $5,000 to $15,000 for St. Baldrick’s. He said Sam Grow, a country artist, plans to donate his time, so “every penny” will go to St. Baldrick’s.

Hurst said there will be a head-shaving event March 31 at Bateman’s. The Hose Company has raised $310,000 for St. Baldrick’s as of 2017.

Concert tickets will go on sale March 1 online via Eventbrite, according to Hurst.

The Out of the Darkness Walk will “raise awareness for suicide prevention and bring hope to those who have been affected by suicide,” Kayleigh Keilty, board chair of the Maryland chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told city leaders.

Keilty said funds will support local training and education programs for suicide prevention. Councilwoman Casi Tomarchio asked her to return and give the council more details about how the money will be used.

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