“Do you have a better idea?”- Huntsville resident on "Inefficient" Ironman Muskoka public meeting

Photo: Town of Huntsville

2019 Ironman Muskoka Route

2020-2022 Ironman Muskoka Proposed Route

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Ruby Truax

Yesterday I went to one of the public meetings which the Town of Huntsville and Ironman 70.3 Muskoka hosted to get our feedback about this summer’s triathlon route. I was disappointed with the format, expecting an open microphone and an opportunity for us to address town staff, Ironman staff and fellow community members all together. Instead there were separate stations set up, each focusing on a different topic, with staff at each station speaking one on one with attendees. Our questions and concerns were only heard by the people at that individual conversation, not the entire room. In more than one instance, I was directed to another station to have my questions answered. I found it a very inefficient way to conduct a public meeting.

I was also disappointed with the small turn-out, which made me question whether the proposal and the meetings had been adequately publicized. If this summer's triathlon route is approved by council on Monday, then on July 12th, Brunel Road will be completely closed to traffic from Veteran’s Way to North Mary Lake Road for several hours. This closure means that about a thousand people who live in the homes and apartments in the area will not be permitted to drive off or onto their properties during a portion of the race. Riverside Baptist Church is within the area of the closure, so they’ll have to cancel or reschedule their services. If there’s a medical emergency or a fire within or even beyond the area of the closure, there may be a delay in getting an ambulance or fire truck through the area. Those of us who live beyond the closure will face up to a half-hour detour to get around it because there are so few options.

My first question yesterday was to Ironman staff: Why not hold the event at Deerhurst, where it had been held for years previously and where it was much less disruptive? I was told that Deerhurst had made too many demands of organizers, that participation in the event had dropped because of the increased costs of these stipulations, and that the Town of Huntsville had asked the event organizers to bring the event into town.

I also asked Ironman staff why they couldn’t leave one lane of Brunel Road open during the event. I was told that because the course is a loop, during part of the race, both bicycles and runners will be on the road at the same time and for safety reasons, one lane wouldn’t be sufficient for those hours.

My next question was for Town staff: Why were the people directly affected by the proposal not consulted or even informed until after the proposal had been discussed and voted on by Huntsville’s Special Event Advisory Team, by the District of Muskoka and by the Community Services Committee? After repeated discussions and approvals at various levels, why was it only four days before the final vote at Council on Monday, that we were invited to get information and provide feedback? Has the decision already been made, I asked, or is there still a possibility that the route will be changed? The answer I received at each of the Town’s stations was, in effect, “Do you have a better idea?” Each station pointed out why the alternatives they presented wouldn’t work. I got the distinct impression that this is indeed a done deal.

One other troublesome detail: As you can see in the photo below, if the route which closes Brunel Road completely for several hours is approved for this year, then we’ll face the same road closure in 2021 and 2022. I asked staff at this station whether I had interpreted this correctly, and was told yes. Because of upcoming construction on Main Street over the next couple of years, this is the proposed route for the next three races.

The triathlon brings a lot of money into our community, as well as worldwide attention. And the Town of Huntsville has signed a multi-year contract with Ironman 70.3 Muskoka, so we have no choice: the race must go on. While the event is bound to cause some disruption, in past years the benefits have outweighed the inconvenience. But this year, and for the next couple of years, because of limitations due to planned construction, the route will involve a large number of people not being allowed to leave or access their homes, and some feel that this is asking too much. What do you think? Town council will be making their final decision on Monday Feb. 24. There’s still time to add your voice to the discussion by going to the My Huntsville website and leaving a comment. Here's a link: https://myhuntsville.ca/ironman-race-route

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