Planned Ortega Highway Closure Gets Lukewarm Reception

In a 5-0 vote, Lake Elsinore City Council members agreed to throw their support behind the planned Sept. 23 Orangeman Half-Distance Triathlon that will force the closure of Ortega Highway.

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.

Rosa Hasler March 29, 2012 at 05:24 PM
It's only 5 hours on a Sunday morning!!!!!. Plan ahead.
TRUTHBTOLD March 29, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Martha - the reason race organizers address the economics is because that's what their audience wants to hear. It's the same pitch you hear from builders, commercial developers etc. When Mike Taylor addresses the City Council to obtain design review approvals, he focuses on the economic benefits to the City.... not on what a wonderful experience the homeowners will have. Our society needs events like marathons, triathlons, air shows, parades etc. just as we need places to live. "Hundreds of people inconvenienced".... are you kidding me... on a Sunday morning? I'm glad we're having this discussion so more people will be hear about the event and plan accordingly. Good luck to all the participants!
Martha L. Bridges March 30, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The economic benefits from this sort of event, if they exist at all, are temporary and short lived. Please understand that I am not questioning the good intentions of the events' participants or their enjoyment of sport or competition, but the logic that is used to "sell" these events as being financially beneficial - beneficial to whom? In most cases certainly not the people who have already invested in their communities by buying homes and establishing businesses and now have to live through these disruptions. You are, however, correct that the builders, commercial developers etc. use these same questionable arguments to convince City Councils and other public officials that their projects will bring financial advantages, jobs and GROWTH. For the Chambers of Commerce and most city councils there is no such thing as bad growth. Their very existence is predicated on prompting development and growth - no matter how false these promises are or how damaging that growth actually is to the area. There's a lesson to be learned from this kind of thinking, and it is going to prove to be a very painful one all across our region and the whole nation. Ever increasing growth is not sustainable and our society's dependence on excessive consumerism of all kinds will be the cause of our fiscal collapse and ruin. Unfortunately, in this recessionary economy the beating of the developers’ drums for more and more growth has drowned out the voices of caution and logic.
Robyn Certain April 03, 2012 at 03:28 AM
The State of California has never designated Ortega Highway as a "scenic highway". It is a major arterial highway carring thousands of vehicles every day of the week. This sounds like a great event for somplace out in Joshua Tree or Anza Borrego. Not on the 74.
TRUTHBTOLD April 03, 2012 at 05:59 AM
You're absolutely right about the reliance on growth to sustain the economy. We're seeing the consequences right now.... those cities that invested wisely don't depend on building permits for a stable economy. But those that haven't will approve anything just to see those developer's dollars. And at what cost to the quality of life for the communities impacted by these knee-jerk approvals. All I can say is more people should show up to Planning Commission and City Council meetings, study the new proposals and stand up for higher quality developments. Perhaps we should amend the Municipal Code and require a higher ratio of park acreage in R-1 developments. Or restrict minimum lot areas in hillsides to half an acre. There's much that can be done.... people just have to educate themselves and take action.


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