ST. GEORGE – Each year events like the St. George Marathon and the Ironman pour millions of dollars into Washington County. However, some residents along Highway 18 have complained that the economic benefits brought by these events overshadow what they see as negative impacts.
Many of the complaints center around residents not being allowed to enter or leave their homes until the sporting events in question were over with. Other objections concerned the presence of armed law enforcement officers who enforced road closures.
“I’ve heard the complaints before,” said Dean Cox, the public information officer for Washington County.
Cox said he understood that there was some inconvenience to the communities along Highway 18, when such events take place. “However,” he said, “supporters of the athletic events held on the old highway outnumber the detractors.”
Still, when it comes to weighing the impact on county citizens and the economic boosts the annual athletic events bring, Cox said finding the right balance was important.
In some cases, concerned citizens said they were rebuffed by Washington County officials and were directed to take the matter up with the St. George City government. St. George city limits end just before Winchester Hills, leaving the incorporated communities along Highway 18 under the jurisdiction of the county. People in these communities are unable to vote in St. George municipal elections.
Marc Mortensen, the support services manager for St. George, echoed Cox’s words about hearing the same complaints.
“A very select few complain about it,” Mortensen said.
Mortensen explained that events like the St. George Marathon, the Ironman, and the Senior Games bring an estimated $24 million into St. George and the county overall.
“They are huge economic engines,” he said. “The benefits far outweigh the consequence.”
Mortensen added that the events helped provide jobs to people, not just in St. George but also to individuals living along Highway 18. He also said notifications were mailed to the communities affected by pending road closures.
“You can’t have an event that doesn’t impact someone,” Mortensen said.
While Mortensen acknowledged complaints surrounding the use of Highway 18, he mentioned the communities near Sand Hallow Reservoir were also blocked during the Ironman last May.
Certain streets in St. George are also closed off to traffic due to the St. George Marathon. Residents on these streets, Mortensen said, were blocked for longer periods than the average six hours (6 a.m. to 12 p.m.) the communities along Highway 18 were impacted.
However, whether it is the Marathon or the Ironman, Mortensen said the city and county governments treat the safe flow of traffic as a top priority when organizing these events.
With officials from Washington County and the City of St. George favoring the economic boon brought by annual athletic events over the concerns of “a select few,” these individuals are left to wondering to whom they can take their grievances.
Parts of Highway 18 will be facing potential traffic delays as the wagon train organized to celebrate St. George City’s sesquicentennial passes through on Oct. 12 to 14.
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.