Triathlon date stays the same for 2018

Fri, 01/05/2018 - 8:45am
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The annual Block Island Triathlon, one of the year’s biggest athletic events bringing participants from all over the country, will once again be held on the first Saturday in August — Aug. 4 — with members of the Recreation Board looking to possibly move the race in 2019. The race kicks off at 9 a.m. 

Both the New Shoreham Police Department and one real estate company asked that the race be moved to a different date because the island was already so busy that bringing athletes to the island, who then tie up a section of Corn Neck Road, causes more congestion. 

But the Recreation Department also had its reason for keeping the race on the same date this year: It’s the biggest fundraiser the department has.

“The big issue is whether changing the dates would make us take a financial hit,” said Recreation Department Director Dave Sniffen. 

Board member Emily Butcher suggested sending out a survey to participants to ask what dates might be options if the race was not held in August.

Board Chair Chris Willi also wondered just how widespread the complaints were. “I didn’t hear anything about last year,” he said. 

Sniffen said, “There’s congestion on Corn Neck Road all summer long. There’s no guarantee that changing the date is going to change that.” Sniffen suggested having traffic expert Al Davis, who has worked on the island before, come out and “talk about traffic flow.”

Need for a pool

The issue of a public indoor pool has also resurfaced, and Board members discussed whether they should take a public stand on the matter. Island homeowner Sue Brown Black recently posted a question on Facebook asking whether people would use a pool if it was built, and the answer were overwhelmingly positive. 

Willi and Sniffen pointed out that the issue of an indoor pool has come up from time to time. In the past two surveys the Recreation Department has sent out to island residents, the desire to have a public pool has always come in “at least in the top three,” said Willi. 

The members said that no matter how strong the need is, a location has to be found and a way to fund not only the construction but ongoing costs needs to be figured out. 

“Building a pool without those other things doesn’t seem to be a good idea,” said Willi. The members all seemed to agree that public funding was not an option. 

“It’s a staggering amount to upkeep a pool,” said Sniffen. There is not only ongoing maintenance, but lifeguards and other staff are needed to keep a facility open for something like 12 hours a day. “There are huge expenses outside of just building it,” said Sniffen.

The Board members pointed out that at this point the discussion on the pool had been initiated by a private citizen and not by the town.

Citing the fact that some Friday nights there have been zero participants at the Recreation Center, which is located at Harbor Church, Sniffen felt that cutting back to one night a week and focusing on younger island kids might boost attendance.

The Rec. Center offers ping-pong, pool, foosball and other indoor activities, but the interest of Block Island youths in grades 10 through 12 seems to have waned. Sniffen said that he has opened up the gym at the Block Island School, as well as having initiated some indoor sports activities for Block Island adults, to provide more options for things to do during the winter months.