The return of Hood to Coast in Seaside has triggered a new round of complaints from residents that the regional event is too large and disruptive for the city.
The iconic 198-mile relay from Mount Hood to the Prom, which was suspended last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, brought thousands of people to the coast in late August.
Several residents told the City Council that some runners were rude, that organizers failed to enforce virus precautions and control traffic and that hosting the event compounded the public health risk during a surge of new virus cases.
But city councilors questioned whether the complaints are unique to this year’s Hood to Coast or are being driven on social media by residents with long-standing objections. Hospital administrators also said they have not detected an increase in local virus cases linked to the event.
“They are not a good fit for the city of Seaside,” Jeff Jarrett, a resident, wrote in a letter to the City Council. “I lived on 14th Avenue for eight years watching these runners go by. I received hostile flak from them each year trying to get my vehicle in and out of the street. Eventually, I just leave town each time they do this event. I was not the only one.”
Runners “just run into town, eat their own food on the beach, have their own party and then go home,” he said. “They have no interest in engaging in any coastal activity. No interest in seeing the sights. They are not here to be tourists, they are here to run and go right back home because most of them are only an hour away. ... Enough is enough. Hood to Coast should host their event elsewhere.”
The complaints appeared on Facebook and other social media during the event and grew in intensity over the past few weeks.
“We are all aware that there are a variety of opinions about the event, and all things having to do with the event,” City Councilor Tita Montero said at last week’s council meeting. “There are a lot of things that people purported to be true, that I knew were not true. So that puts that in the realm of rumors.”
While new virus cases were surging in late August, Seaside was not in a state of emergency, City Councilor David Posalski said. “There’s no reason for us to have added additional regulations beyond what the state had put into place for Hood to Coast,” he said.
Dogged by complaints
Hood to Coast first moved the finish to Seaside in the late 1980s. Throughout the years, the event has been dogged by complaints about the impacts on residents. In 2015, concerns from residents and businesses about unruly behavior, traffic and poor organization brought angry crowds to City Council meetings and threatened to end the relationship.
In 2018, the city and Hood to Coast renewed the agreement, with an initial payment of $25,000 to the city that increases each year through 2022, when the relay will pay more than $30,000. The city provides police, fire and public works services for the event, which raises funds for the Providence Cancer Institute.
Despite the changes, Sandy Rea, a resident and longtime critic of the event, said problems linger.
“Although Hood to Coast offered lip service regarding wearing masks and social distancing, they made no effort to enforce either, while claiming on television to have done so,” Rea said.
Dan Floyd, Hood to Coast’s chief operating officer, said the relay followed state outdoor mask requirements.
“People not wearing masks were either running/walking, eating, drinking, speaking onstage, or performing,” he said after the City Council meeting. “Others not wearing masks were not within the fenced area of our party. That does leave a small group of individuals, or teams, that were not in compliance.”
Floyd said this resulted in the disqualification and 2022 ban of 12 teams.
Jason Plamondon, the chief nursing officer at Providence Seaside Hospital, said he didn’t see a big increase in virus cases after Hood to Coast.
“We were tracking our ER pretty carefully and I didn’t see it,” he said. “We didn’t see a bump in that.”
Judy Geiger, the vice president of patient care services at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, said the virus caseload “stayed steady” for the week to 10 days following the event.
While there had been discussions earlier this year of canceling the party at the finish, Floyd said, organizers met with the city in advance to get approval for a modified party.
“Traffic was the smoothest it has been in 39 years of Hood to Coast,” he said. “Our post-event participant survey indicated the 97% of respondents would like to participate in Hood to Coast in future years. However, we did have some delays on Highway 30. We identified the problem immediately. Although it took a couple hours to resolve, we are confident that our 2021 remedy will mitigate traffic in future years.”
Montero said, “I don’t care how you feel, positive or negative, about Hood to Coast. This is actually a world-class event, as world class as the Boston Marathon, as the New York Marathon, as any of those other large races throughout the world. We know that wherever we go, 5 to 10% of the people don’t follow through, and don’t do what they’re supposed to do. But that’s not a reason to condemn everything.”
Rea started a Facebook group last week called Cancel Hood to Coast at Seaside. By last Thursday, they had 286 members. “Amazing response so far,” she said.
Seaside’s Tiffany Pedersen sees a need for improvement in outreach and traffic management from Hood to Coast organizers. But she supported the relay.
“It was almost embarrassing to see our locals on social media going onto the Hood to Coast page and making all of the tourists feel unwelcome,” she wrote in a letter to the City Council. “With tourism being our highest industry for Seaside, we don’t want to become the town that made an entire event of people feel unwelcome.
“Keyboard warriors would much rather complain about debris left behind by Hood to Coast than pick up a phone and call Hood to Coast headquarters, or better yet, go outside and just pick it up.”