Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Permits and Policing

Open any race guide these days and you'll see a myriad of races to choose from.  Offerings include everything from traditional 5 & 10ks to themed races, fun races, big professional races to charity fundraisers and more.  This is one industry that has been booming for awhile and shows no signs of slowing down.

The race scene has definitely evolved over the years and will continue to do so.  What many folks don't think of when setting out to put on a race is the impact on the community.  Road usage and/or closures affect both residences and businesses.  This applies to trail races too as shared use and environmental impact are issues land owners typically consider when giving permission for a race to take place on their property.

When someone asks my advice on how to go about putting on a race, I always start with the topic of land use.  This assumes that you already have an idea of where you'd like your race to take place.  My first piece of advice on the topic:

Be very flexible in setting your route
Let's say you have a route in mind.  You might even have measured your intended route to make up a 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon or longer course.  You've picked your route based on its level of challenge, landmarks, beauty, natural features etc. etc.  Your very first step is going to be to contact land owners and ask permission to run your race over their land.  Most likely, there WILL be changes needed as there WILL be issues on the land you were not familiar with like:
  • Your route blocks access to a church during church travel hours
  • Future construction is intended on a part of your route
  • Your event conflicts with another on that date
  • Part of your route has received a lot of complaints from residences/businesses from another event that made use of this route
  • Part of your route travels a high traffic area that the City/Region deems more important than a road closure, especially to a new event without a track record for performance
  • Police deem an intersection of travel too dangerous for foot traffic
Public Works 
Assuming your race will run on roads, your first step is to find out who owns each road your runners will travel on.  If your race is short, you're most likely going to work with your local municipality's Public Works department.  If your town/city is part of a region, however, you'll want to check if the intended roads are municipal or regional.  Here's the process I'd recommend:
  • Google the name of your municipality and "event permit" to see if there is a formal form you need to download and fill out
  • Google the name of your region and "event permit" to see if there is also a formal form you need to download and fill out
  • Go over each event permit in detail to make sure you understand what is involved and that you have the other components requested to obtain a permit (e.g. police permission, insurance)
  • Repeat for any other municipalities or regions your route involves
  • Create (or pay someone to create) a scaled map of your intended route.  This should be accurate, concise and clear
  • Once you've gathered all other necessary documents, call each relevant Public Works department to go over your intended road usage.  You will most likely be dealing with the Engineer in charge of roads and/or events.  You need to pre-approve your roads as the process to obtain formal road usage/closure permission can be lengthy.  If your roads are not pre-approved, you chance being denied permission to use a particular road way too close to your intended race date
  • Be aware that, in some cases, you may be asked to create a document listing your route and intended roads used, submit this to Council and your request will be voted on at the next scheduled Council meeting (which might occur only once a month)
Note that some municipalities have a policy of shared road usage for events. Others will give full permission for road closures. Your signage/notice to residences, communication with your runners and course setup must reflect this.  You need to ask and understand fully the policy of the municipality/region you are working with on this matter.

Police presence is usually required for road races.  The dynamic between police and your municipality is different for every locale so don't make assumptions about permissions.  Typically, police are required to marshal high traffic areas.  It is up to police to determine where these areas are.  For the road events I've been involved in, each road use permit asks for the name of the Police Officer you are working with.  Typically, you seek a police community event permit at the same time that you seek a municipal one.  Here's the process I recommend to obtain a police permit:
  • Google the name of your local police force and "event permit"
  • If you can't find the above, or after your have downloaded the form, call your local Community Events Police Department and speak to them about your intended route.  Sometimes, this form is only available after a face to face consultation with Police
  • In some cases, the Police will drive the course with you to go over your route. This is a great idea to make sure everyone is on the same page about your route, timing, turns, traffic flow etc.
A road route will often use a segment of parkland to traverse an area.  You will need to fill out an event form from your local Parks Department to use the land.  Similar to the above:
  • Google the name of your local Parks Department and "event permit"
  • Download & go through the specifics they ask you for.  Be aware that with all permits, these forms can be generic and many of the questions do not apply to races 
  • Again, call your local Parks Department to check if the date is available and if there are any issues you need to be aware of to use park land.  Some municipalities will only grant permission within their seasonal operating dates
Be aware that "running through" a park is different than using park space for your starting and/or finishing venue.  Most likely, Parks will want to see your route map to make sure the route is clear for runners.  You too want to make sure that you have personally travelled your intended route to make sure:
  • Your route is runnable
  • Instructions are written into your Parks permit to have any gates/fences opened by a certain hour on race day. Do you know who to contact in case you arrive on race morning and a gate is still locked?
  • Do you intend to setup an aid station on park land?  Are there enough garbage bins? Do you have a garbage disposal plan? Will your noise level with an aid station affect the neighbours as many races are run early in the morning
One Stop Shopping
Although this has not been the case for the permits I have obtained for my races, I have heard that in some municipalities a Race Director need only make one point of contact within a municipality and each subsequent request is distributed to the respective departments (e.g. You contact your local Public Works Department and your road use request is shared with the local Police and Parks).  Even if this is the case, you would be wise to follow up with each respective body (i.e. Police, Region, Parks, Public Works) to make sure they have your information.  Be aware that municipalities are very structured entities and one department may not be 100% familiar with the operating policies of another department or body (e.g. one assumes that road closures are the norm whereas road "usage" is the norm unless special permission is granted).

Special Permission
Depending on the intended size of your event, a meeting MAY be called by one of the bodies listed on this page.  Additionally, you may want to seek permissions above and beyond those granted in the regular process. For example, you may be looking for complete road closures for your event.  Or, you may need the permission of City Council for some reason (e.g. you want to partner your event with a major City event/festival or you are seeking a liquor license for your finish line).  The City Clerk would be your point of contact in these instances to help guide you through this more complex process.

Conservation Lands
Conservation lands are slightly different than Parks land as they are managed by a different body and usually have stricter policies regarding environmental impact.  Although the process is similar to obtaining permission (i.e. Google the name of the conservation land you intend to use along with the term "events"), you will most likely find yourself in a negotiation position at some point.  Points to consider with obtaining permission from conservation land owners/managers:
  • An entry fee is usually charged. Do they have a group rate that you will include in your budget or will you alert your runners to the fact that each vehicle will be charged an entry fee?  Will you budget for the entry fee for runners but ask all support (friends/family) to pay their own entry fee?  This entry fee is above the trail/segment of the park usage fee for your group
  • Have other races used this land? If so, you may want to contact them to see what rate they negotiated with the land owners/managers
  • Does the conservation body have a mandatory "reroute in the case of [rain/snow/thunderstorm/mudslide]" policy? Are you prepared to reroute your racers or even cancel your event?
  • Does the conservation body have a staggered start policy to minimize the impact on the environment?
  • Is night time travel allowed, if applicable to your race?
  • Are all trails fair game for usage?
  • Will mountain bikers, hikers, horses etc. be allowed on the trails on race day?
  • Is your start/finish on conservation land and if not, are you allowed to enter/exit the land from your venue?
  • If you have aid stations within the conservation area what are their policies regarding access, garbage, garbage removal, number of cars allowed at each station?
  • If crew are allowed at aid stations, are there any access issues or limit to the number of vehicles allowed?
As with all permits, go over the fine print with your permit and make sure you know what you're agreeing to.  Ask questions if you don't understand any points or did not agree to them.  Each permit will ask for a copy of your insurance policy. Most will ask for you to list the land owner as an additional insured.  Don't underestimate the value of your insurance policy.  I will dedicate a post to the policy as it is a big commitment with regards to finances.  Liability in sport has also become a big issue in North America so you want to make sure that you have a good policy and that you are not agreeing to anything on a land use permit that is incorrect.

Permit and Police Costs
THERE IS NO STANDARD FOR THE PRICE OF A ROAD/LAND USE PERMIT OR POLICING COSTS.  Some municipalities/regions charge a nominal processing fee. Others charge per runner or per hour of road closure.  If you dig on the respective websites, you can usually find the pricing information.  To give you some examples, Municipal permits in non-tourist regions of Niagara cost nothing to $10 per event.  Park permits cost an average of $300-$400/day.  Policing costs in Niagara average $350/Officer/4 hour shift.  Niagara Parkway road closure $2,000/4 hours.  You will want to check to see if each permit has a discounted rate if your entity is a not-for-profit.  It pays to talk to other race directors that have used parts of the route you intend to use (if they'll share this information with you).  I cannot emphasize enough the value of doing your research on the parameters of permits you are seeking and presenting your plan and yourself in a concise, professional manner.

Private Land Owners
Some races are run entirely on private land.  If your event falls under this category, you want to make sure you know the physical boundaries of the property.  Examples of private lands might be a ski resort, camp ground, forest preserve or outdoor school.  This is sometimes preferable to operating on public lands as the rules may be more relaxed. However, make sure you have your price in writing!  Be prepared to pay a head fee per runner along with a venue fee.  Again, there is no standard in this category.  Make sure you know what is included in the fee (washrooms, water access, parking).  If this is the first year for your event DO NOT OVERESTIMATE YOUR ATTENDANCE!  In a future post, I'll go over budgeting for a race, which includes estimating first year numbers and how to market to obtain those numbers.  It is NOT cheap to put on a race.  Do not cut corners though as safety and liability must be key factors in every decision you make about your route and venue.

Questions about Permits and Policing?  
diane [at] dirtyrunnerproductions [dot] com
I will post relevant questions here with my response for all to see

No comments:

Post a Comment