The race will go on.
A bit of last-minute drama briefly threatened the popular Brookhaven Bolt 5K race, set for May 20, when race organizers discovered two granite pillars erected on each side of the refurbished Valvedere Bridge in Ashford Park.
That bridge is part of the route some 2,000 runners and walkers will use as they make their way through the Ashford Park neighborhood during the 5K race, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
Race organizers feared the granite pillars, or bollards, could present a liability should someone run into one of them, said Todd Banister, co-chair of the Bolt.
“Our first thought was that they were fine,” Banister said when he learned May 9 of the bollards. “We thought they could be temporarily removed. But then we saw they were permanently placed granite and could be a problem.”
There was talk for a couple hours of possibly canceling the race or being forced to find another route, Banister said, but city officials agreed to remove the bollards in time for the race.
Mayor John Ernst said the bollards would be cut down May 9 and after the race, new, temporary bollards will be installed.
“Out of an abundance of respect for the Brookhaven Bolt [and] its importance to the city of Brookhaven, an executive decision has been made to remove the bollards from the Valvedere Bridge,” Ernst said in a statement to the organizers.
Ernst said the bollards would be replaced “by new bollards that can be removed for future events such as this.”
The Brookhaven Bolt is the largest fundraiser for Ashford Park Elementary School, with 100 percent of proceeds going to the school. Banister said a record number of 2,000 people are expected to sign up for this year’s race with an anticipated donation to the school totaling $53,000.
City Manager Christian Sigman said in a May 9 email to Banister and Adam Caskey, also a race organizer, that the bollards were installed at the bridge in an effort to ensure people in golf carts would not use the bridge. The bridge repair that included the granite bollards cost less than $150,000, city spokesperson Burke Brennan said.
“Golf carts are not allowed on public streets in Brookhaven and the bridge was not designed for vehicles of any type,” Sigman stated. “Actually, I suspect the illegal golf cart use contributed to the damage and shortened life of the prior bridge.”
Ernst said the temporary bollards will ensure golf carts or any other motorized vehicle will not be able to use the repaired bridge.
“It must be pointed out that under no circumstances can any motorized vehicle of any kind (gas or electric) be permitted on this bridge,” Ernst said. “As the city manager has stated, the Valvedere Bridge is only designed for foot traffic and cannot safely accommodate a pace car or cart.”
Ashford Park resident Ronnie Mayer scolded the council and Sigman at the May 9 council meeting for installing the bollards in the first place. He said many neighborhood residents use golf carts and use the bridge.
Banister said, however, he appreciated the city’s responsiveness to the Brookhaven Bolt.
“Truth be told, they were quick to dialogue and were swift in their response and they did the right thing,” Banister said.
“We are extremely happy with the city’s response. Our focus on the bridge is for one morning of the year … and when you run a city there are a lot of different angles to look at,” Banister said. “But they agreed in the race’s favor and we are nothing but happy.”
Brookhaven Bolt 5K race
Sat., May 20 • Race starts at 8 a.m. sharp
Race begins at Caldwell Road directly behind Village Place Brookhaven