The closure of Ortega Highway for a triathlon event this fall got a reluctant endorsement from the Lake Elsinore City Council Tuesday night.
In a 5-0 vote, council members agreed to throw their support behind the planned Sept. 23 Orangeman Half-Distance Triathlon founded by promoter Go Forward Racing of Dana Point. As part of the competition, the Ortega is scheduled to close on race day from approximately 7:15 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The closure will allow participants to compete in the cycling phase of the event, which will include a 20-mile stretch of the Ortega from San Juan Capistrano to El Cariso Village and back.
Go Forward Racing co-founder David Flournoy told council members Tuesday he needed the city’s support in order to move forward with the Caltrans encroachment permit process. A five-mile portion of the event’s cycling phase is on the Riverside County side of the Ortega.
, but Assemblymen Kevin Jeffries (R-Lake Elsinore) said residents in Riverside County were not given proper notice of the road closure.
“This is not a suitable road to be used for a specific entertainment venue,” “The Ortega is a huge tourism draw for local businesses and a major highway with no nearby alternate routes.”
Flournoy told council members Tuesday that he has not obtained a letter of support from Jeffries for the 2012 event, but the Assemblyman offered suggestions on how to improve communications to ensure residents are notified well in advance of the Ortega closure.
Councilwoman Melissa Melendez pleaded with Flournoy to provide signage throughout Lake Elsinore -- well ahead of time -- to let residents know of the planned SR 74 closure.
Flournoy promised to comply, and said he’s already received local backing. The Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce, Skydive Elsinore, and the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park have all provided letters of support, he said.
Councilman Bob Magee said the Chamber’s backing is the only reason he voted to endorse the race.
“I think this is a great event for Orange County. I don’t think it’s a great event for Riverside County,” he said.
Magee and his fellow council members said the triathlon offered little benefit to their city, and they called on Flournoy to consider a Lake Elsinore venue.
Kim Cousins, president/CEO of the Lake Elsinore Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber board of directors backed the triathlon this year as a “tit for tat” to bring the event to “this side of the hill” in the near future. He said last year’s race saw 60 Riverside County residents participate.
Flournoy didn’t make any commitments to future races Tuesday night, but he said his company is looking at some sort of event centered around the lake.