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Is the Best Damn Race too darn long?

The Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor has been extremely popular with runners for the past three years, but some in the city want to shorten the event due to traffic issues.
The Best Damn Race has been extremely popular with runners during it’s four years being held in Safety Harbor, but some people in the city want to alter or shorten the event due to traffic issues.

Two weeks ago, on a dreary first Saturday of February, thousands of runners filled the streets of downtown Safety Harbor for the fourth edition of the Best Damn Race.

And while runners of all skill sets have praised the race organizers for putting together a well-executed event, some residents have complained about the inability to get into and out of streets and neighborhoods along the course at times during the three races, a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon, that make up the event.

On the heels of the 2016 race, downtown resident Dave Perrego addressed the issue during the Safety Harbor City Commission meeting Monday night, calling for the commission to end the inaccessibility to his home on race day.

“I just want to convey to the council that access to my home is not a bargaining chip so we can bring a race or some other recreational activity,” Perrego said during the Public Comments portion of the meeting.

Screenshot of Dave Perrego discussing the Best Damn Race on Monday night.
Screenshot of Dave Perrego discussing the Best Damn Race at the City Commission meeting Monday night.

“I pay taxes and I have a right to be able to come and go from my home, and I’m very distressed that right was taken away from me so that we can have a race. So I’d like some assurances from council that we’re not going to do things this way in the future.”

Mayor Andy Steingold informed Perrego that no decision would be made on the 2017 event at this time, primarily because it hasn’t come up for approval yet.

“I don’t think you’re going to get a decision right now,” Steingold said. “Obviously, we don’t want to, in any way, interfere with anyone coming and going from their home. That wasn’t the intention.”

“But the race was approved, we changed direction, we changed streets over time, we tried to improve it,” he added. “There’s been discussion of having the race reduce the mileage, of having the 5k and 10K race instead of the half (marathon). So it’s an ongoing discussion.”

Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow.
Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow.

Vice-Mayor Andy Zodrow then related his own personal experience he had with the event this year.

“I’m a supporter of the race, but I had my own personal problems, two of them,” Zodrow said.

“I live on a street that the race came down, and I got stuck in my house, not very long, but then I had a second issue that was a little bit more disturbing, where I couldn’t get anybody to my house, and the officers told them they could not cross Philippe Parkway for one hour…So I understand the concerns.”

After Zodrow reiterated during his Commission Report at the end of the meeting that he would address his concerns about the race whenever the item came before the commission, City Manager Matt Spoor explained which aspect of the topic staff would like to have some direction on.

Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.
Safety Harbor Mayor Andy Steingold.

“One of the issues, and this is direction that you’ll need to give staff, is the half-marathon,” Spoor said. “We’ve always had 5Ks and 10Ks. The issue is…when you have a half marathon in a town that’s five square miles, and you’re running 13 miles…”

“…that’s almost three times around the city,” Mayor Steingold finished.

“You’re absolutely right,” Spoor continued. “So keep that in mind when we have this discussion.”

“The biggest issue is that half marathon, and everyone knows it,” Spoor added. “It’s the elephant in the room. If you want to have less impact, the only way is to tell the race organizer, 5K, 10K. That’s it.”

“I think a 5K and a 10K is probably the way to go,” Steingold concurred.

BDR organizer Nick Zivolich (r) congratulates half-marathon winner Sean Gallagher in 2014.
Safety Harbor Best Damn Race organizer Nick Zivolich (r) congratulates half-marathon winner Sean Gallagher in 2014.

Safety Harbor Connect reached out to Best Damn Race organizer Nick Zivolich, and the event founder expressed dismay that the matter was being discussed without his input.

“Frankly, I’m frustrated that they would even entertain these comments,” Zivolich said by phone. “I did everything the city asked me to do, and everything went off without a hitch.”

Zivolich noted that he has worked tirelessly with Safety Harbor city officials and residents over the years to make the race as community friendly as possible, including sending out impact notices to every resident located in the race area, tweaking the course, capping the number of entrants, increasing the police presence, and renting offsite parking and shuttling racers to the starting area. He said he even worked with Mr. Perrego personally in the weeks before the race.

“No other event in Safety Harbor has more planning and logistics than this race,” Zivolich said. “We worked with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department and the Clearwater PD to ensure people can get into and out of their homes when there’s no runner traffic. We worked with residents to tell them how to access and leave their home during the race.”

The 2016 Best Damn Race drew 4,000 runners to Safety Harbor this year. (File photo)
The Best Damn Race drew 4,000 runners to Safety Harbor this year. (File photo)

“Nobody is impacted for more than an hour, hour and a half, and they might not be able to get out of their driveway for maybe 10 or 15 minutes during that time.”

“This is a very standard thing,” he added. “We do races in other markets where we shut down city blocks.”

Zivolich, who has an office downtown and considers Safety Harbor home, said he has no desire to move the race out of the city.

“Safety Harbor is where I work and basically live, and it’s where the company began,” he said. “I love Safety Harbor. This is a Safety Harbor company, and I see no reason to move.”

However, he emphatically stated there would be no BDR without the half marathon.

“That’s not even an option,” Zivolich said.

“That’s the distance that brings runners to town who book rooms in hotels and spend money in the city. There is no Best Damn Race without the half marathon.”

Harborites, how do you feel about this subject? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. I agree people should NOT have to be confined to their homes for ANY reason, or because of a race.

    And I too am offended by the “curse word” in the name. That is unnecessary. Just “Best Race” should be sufficient. Or “Best dog gone Race” or “Best cotton-pickin’ Race. How about the “Supreme Race”? Using a Curse word is just not necessary.

    I would like to suggest that you run it from the SPA South on Bayshore Blvd. and/or better yet just use the “Bike Walk Trail” across the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Just using the Trail alone would “NOT BLOCK ANYONE” in their home.
    People living from Main St to 7th Street S. are free to travel to the West. And people living in Del Oro to Gulf to Bay can travel West also So this would only affect a few people. Using the “Causeway only” seems like the best solution.

    Thank you for considering that route and it is a “very scenic” route. I have ridden my bike on the Trail and it was very enjoyable! Linda

  2. This is so disheartening to hear. I am a runner, and of the many races that I run each year, BDR Safety Harbor is, by far, my favorite race. The race registration starts at least 9 months in advance of the race. Residents in the area have ample time to plan accordingly for that particular day. The race director does an awesome job of planning, organizing, and working with the community to prepare for this race. It is really upsetting that a couple disgruntled residents could ruin it for the thousands of runners that run and love this race. Instead of complaining about the at most 1.5 hours that you are “stuck” in your homes, join in and enjoy it like the rest of us. Honestly, if I had to be stuck anywhere, it would definitely be in the comfort of my own home, but I guess there are those few people that no matter what you do, they will always be unhappy. I hope that these few people don’t ruin it for us.

    • Well said!! The very same people that elected our current commission/mayor…whiners and complainers. They want this town to continue to be the land of misfit toys!! The entitled who want all the entitlements!! Tired of it!! Time for growth, change and good fun!!

  3. Yes, agree, need different faces for those running the city. Businesses come and go since the city just tries to build roadblocks for them. The downtown really hasn’t changed much in years. What’s with the vacant building next to the boutique down by Paradise restaurant? How many years is that going to stand vacant before it falls down? The owner and city officials must somehow be connected, the usual story. There is a small group of folks in the downtown area advising the elected officials. Come to the commissioner meetings and you’ll understand and see pretty quickly the nonsense.

  4. Just 3 years ago it seemed the downtown was going somewhere with new businesses coming in and a positive vibe. Past year it amazes me how many businesses have moved out and how many comments from outsiders stating they would not consider opening a business in SH because of the negativity from the city and the elected officials. And then you hear a few complainers out of thousands about special events that bring so much to the community and they immediately want to shut everything down or evaluate the same thing over and over. I just don’t understand it. Most downtown communities would give anything to have what SH has to offer especially the waterfront but somehow our elected officials believe they know more than the citizens. Sound familiar? We need to move forward with a proactive approach to attract new businesses, new homes and special events. This town has so much potential but it is being wasted.

    • Totally agree. I believe a lot has to fall on the elected commission and who they entrust as the city manager. Seriously have not seen a plan for devolving downtown. They claim they do a lot but proof is just looking at Main Street. Elections can’t happen quick enough…

  5. Jeff Rosenfield, Thank you for always writing and posting these articles. They show just how crazy some of the folks in Safety Harbor are with their thinking as well as the shortsightedness of some of the elected officials. Is this Mayberry or Safety Harbor?

  6. I agree, get rid of the whiners in Safety Harbor. They are always trying to stop anything that comes to this city. It is really a disgrace. I applaud the organizer and all the work that went into bringing this type of race. Residents who complain about these things should take their spouse or significant other to breakfast somewhere outside of Safety Harbor while the race is going on. Enjoy life instead of being drama kings, queens and whiners. Life is too short to be a complainer. Do something good for your community instead of complaining. Get with it or get out of Safety Harbor.

  7. I’m a Safety Harbor resident and had plenty of notice about the temporary road closures.
    The BDR brings a lot of Commerce to the City and should no way change the format based on a few whiners.

  8. I agree that the race does bring a benefit to our town (sans the obvious curse word in the middle of the name splattered all over everything for my elementary school child to read – “stay classy” Race Organizer & Safety Harbor).

    However, where you live in Safety Harbor will determine how much of an inconvenience this presents. Obviously, for most, 15 minutes or so is really tolerable, but this race has inconvenienced me for hours. I have been blocked in from the simultaneous closures of Philippe Parkway and N Bayshore Drive and the deputies would NOT let me out.

    For me, not being able to drive from my house for a couple of hours on a Saturday morning is a huge inconvenience. I’m surprised that routes can’t be amended and times adjusted for these races.

    I’ve been running in road races, and all over this town, for approx. 20 years and you can’t tell me there’s not a better way to route/time these races – of course those living on Bayshore Blvd have it the worst.

    So, consider redoing the routes and times, go out on a limb and be morally responsible with a name change for our town’s children, and keep the races coming – they are a benefit if done correctly!

    • Hi TJ, I’m very sorry if you experienced any delays. There should never be any kind of delays that are longer than 5-10 minutes. In most cases even less. The deputies should be letting residents to and from when its safe to do so. I will be addressing this with PSCO in our post event meeting again. I’m always available to discuss in further detail at info@bestdamnrace.com. Thank you for your input and understanding.

  9. This morning I happen to be in at one of our gas stations and I asked the manager what he thought of the race and how large it has become by having the half marathon, he was surprised that there is a concern at all. He said that it certainly brought a lot of extra business that day and that while inconvenient for an hour or so, there was plenty of notice for all residents. It would be very short-sighted for the commission to consider anything but praises for the organizers.

  10. Holy cow!! This town and its leaders are getting really ridiculous. Let’s just shut down this darn town as it seems that is what is wanted and is happening. Enough already!! Time to get a grass route effort going and elect all of them out and have the new commission appoint a new city manager. This is ridiculous!!

    • Keep the half!! Cancel the Holiday Parade that causes a lot more delays and is more of an inconvenience by watching ALL OF THE CITY VEHICLES being in the parade. I have never seen a town of this size have so many vehicles!! Wake up residents – get out and vote ALL of them out next election!!! Why does a Finance Manager have a city issued pick up truck?? Don’t get me started!!

  11. It is crazy that the commission is even considering doing anything but praising the organizers for a great event. All races from 5ks and up seem to go in front of my house and for an hour we can certainly put up with any inconvenience. The positive aspects of a race like this one far outweigh any very temporary inconveniences. I hope Andy and the commission are not going to just listen to people like Dave Perrego that came to complain. I bet my taxes are higher than Dave’s and I say keep the HALF!

  12. I am surprised that the 2 gentlemen are so upset about a few hours of inconveniece ,when this race brings so much publicity to our city. What’s a few hours in a lifetime. Just plan accordingly.

  13. Nick Zivolich doesn’t live in Safety Harbor, so why should he have any concern for the inconvenience he causes Safety Harbor residents? Mr. Zivolich lives just a few hundred yards from the Courtney Campbell on Oyster Bayou Way which is in the Bayshore Townhomes Community – well on the Clearwater side. Getting rid of the half-marathon is a good compromise.

  14. It seems to me that being inconvenienced (with warnings – there was plenty of signage) for 15 min. or even an hour, short of having an emergency, is a small price to pay for having a big and popular race in our town. I live on the race route too. And, yes, it’s good business for S.H. too.

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