Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely businesses petition for change in marathon route

Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/20/18

ELY – As plans are being finalized for the fourth annual Ely Marathon, more than 40 Ely businesses have petitioned the city to change the race’s route through town. The businesses want the race …

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Ely businesses petition for change in marathon route

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ELY – As plans are being finalized for the fourth annual Ely Marathon, more than 40 Ely businesses have petitioned the city to change the race’s route through town. The businesses want the race relocated to Camp Street, as opposed to Sheridan, to allow local access to the business district during the running of the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon qualifier at the end of September.

Marolyn Mathys, owner of Log Cabin Coffee, presented the petition to the Ely City Council Tuesday night. It states, “We believe the current route of the Ely Marathon adversely affects our business sales due to lack of access. This consequence is unnecessary and could easily be remedied by changing the route to Camp Street. We formally request the change of routing.”

“I don’t know what’s happening on the other end of town during the marathon, but on my end (1340 E. Sheridan St.), there are no marathon fans, no customers, and I sit out there by myself,” Mathys said. Normally, my Saturday morning sales are pretty good. As I sat there last year, feeling pretty angry and stewing about it, I decided to see if something could be done.”

The Ely Marathon has been held for the last three years at the end of September. By June, according to Stone Soup Events Coordinator Wendy Lindsay, the route for the 2018 Ely Marathon is already set with local, county and state traffic permits are in place.

“This is not fair,” Mathys said. “I went around town last week to see if anybody else felt the way I did and if their businesses are affected when the road is closed on that Saturday morning.”

Along with Log Cabin Coffee, the other businesses that signed the petition include: Family Dollar, Lakeland Motel, North Ridge Community Credit Union, P.J.’s Hair Co., D&D Accounting, Ely Auction Service, American Family Insurance, Paddle Inn, Hearth Side Corner, Adventure Inn, Red Cabin Custard, Motel Ely, Bear Island Co., Gator’s, Mike Motors, Canoe Country Outfitters, Boundary Waters Bank, Lucky Seven, Edwards Oil, Country Financial, Ely Outdoors Company, Sir G’s, Oriental Orchid, Zaverl’s Bar, Front Porch Coffee and Tea Co., Mike’s Liquors, Salon No. 10, Plum Bun Bakery, Up North Realty, Northeast Title Co., Bloomers, Lakeshore Liquor, A Laundry Room, Voltz Technologies, Great Outdoors, Wolfland Computers, Ely Old-Fashoned Candy, Ely Steakhouse, Kerntz TV and Appliance.

“I was really surprised at the number of businesses that are affected like me. I thought I was the only one sitting by myself that Saturday morning,” Mathys said. ‘Several motels expressed concern that their only entry for their customers is on Sheridan Street and they could not get access to their rooms. “And two of the businesses on this list actually run the marathon, but said they fully support the businesses in town.”

Mathys maintained that the route of the marathon on Sheridan Street is unnecessary. “Even if the route is set, there is plenty of time to change it in four and a half months.” The 2018 Ely Marathon will be held on Sept. 22.

Mayor Chuck Novak said there is not enough time to change the route for this year. “The certification is a lengthy process. It has to be exact. It has to be verified by the marathon folks because this is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon,” he said. “Your concerns are well noted by the Events Bureau, this council, the townships and the county, and we will consider a possible change for next year.”

He went on to explain that many permits from many governmental bodies are needed to conduct the marathon. “All that work is done already, and to try and do that right now is a tough call,” he said.

He invited Mathys to attempt to change the route on her own.

She asked if there was any way the businesses could share in the proceeds of the marathon for compensation for their lost business on that Saturday morning.

“Sure, if you want to share in the loss, too,” Novak replied.

“We are trying to get people into town,” the mayor continued. “It is just one weekend. The alternative is to stop it and shut the whole thing down.”

Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski said public hearings were held in City Hall that addressed the route of the marathon for each year. “The Planning and Zoning Committee wanted me to keep a log of the complaints (on the route). I have had zero complaints,” he said. “If the route is going to change, we are required to have a public hearing.”

Mathys continued, “I also talked to many customers in these businesses who wanted to sign. I refused to let them. They said Saturday morning is their day to run errands. They can’t get to the bank. They can’t get to the grocery store. We’re shutting down the whole town for a hundred people that could easily run down a different street.”

Mathys said she will not open her business this year on the day of the Ely Marathon.

Council member Paul Kess suggested a compromise. “I’m not a runner, obviously. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, you have to be a good runner. Maybe after the first runners are through, because the other ones are not going to Boston anyway, we could open the route.”

Council member Albert Forsman said there are ramifications for every change. “I’m certain that any attempt to quickly make a change (to the route) is not going to be feasible,” he said. “We can look at making changes for next year.”

He acknowledged the seriousness of the issue. “These issues were not brought to us until right now. I did not know that there were this many people that were upset with what we have. We will look at this for next year,” he said.

Other business

In other business, the council:

Authorized the Projects Committee to solicit funds to complete the Hidden Valley Mountain Bike Trails, and allowed the payment of $9,762 to Dirt Candy Designs for the trail design work;

Allowed the soliciting of bids to remove the fuel tank from the Community Center;

Passed a resolution authorizing the Dig Once provision for utility and infrastructure projects;

Authorized a temporary deputy clerk for election purposes for the Aug. 14 primary and Nov. 6 general election;

Approved a pool hall license for Catz Billiards and Blues pending receiving the proper paperwork;

Passed a resolution affirming membership in the Northeastern Minnesota Municipal Agency;

Agreed to move forward with the construction of a pavilion at Semer’s Park for $123,500.

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