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Palm Coast Friday, Aug. 21, 2015 3 years ago

UPDATE: Flagler County plans to cancel extreme race at Princess Place

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Enough people have contacted the county about this issue that an email list is being compiled to communicate with them all.
by: Brian McMillan Executive Editor

UPDATED 4:12 p.m. Aug. 22:

According to County Commissioner Barbara Revels, the Flagler County will not hold the Spartan race at Princess Place. She said via text that County Administrator Craig Coffey is in the process of contacting the other commissioners and preparing a press release with the official announcement.

However, a recent email from Spartan Race US to environmental activist and former political candidate Adam Morley, seems to indicate that, at least as of 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21, Spartan was under the impression that the race was still on. The email from Spartan is as follows:

"Thank you for your email and concern. Unfortunately we will not be able to change the venue or location for this event as we have already committed to our racers to put on an event at this locations and hundreds if not thousands have already starting making plans to be there. I can assure you that when we put on an event we would work with the local managers or rangers to ensure the course will not have any affect on the history or usage after we have left. We have put on hundreds of events at varying locations, from Indian Tribal lands, to state parks, to active working farms, and have always been invited back due to the level of consideration we have for the venue we use."

Morley said he wasn't positive if this was a form letter response or a true response.

According to the Spartan.com website, as of 4:35 p.m. Aug. 22, registrations are still being accepted for the Jacksonville Super at Palm Coast, at Princess Place, which takes places March 19, 2016. The description on the site says this is a "Super" race featuring a middle-distance course, which provides "more obstacles ... through tougher and more rugged terrain" than the "Sprint" type of race.

"The Reebok Spartan Super: This is our middle distance course. With a longer distance than the Sprint and more obstacles, the Super will test your endurance, perseverance and grit. The 8+ Mile Super packs more than 25 Signature Spartan Obstacles through tougher and more rugged terrain. The Super is the test en route to your Spartan TRIFECTA."


ORIGINAL STORY:


An Aug. 19 story on FlaglerLive.com revealed that the Tourist Development Council, on the strength of a contract prepared by tourism chief Matt Dunn, has recommended that the County Commission approve an incentives package to attract an extreme obstacle race to Princess Place Preserve. The story, which questions whether the sensitive and historic venue is appropriate for a race of that nature, has attracted a lot of attention throughout the county, and as a result, the county administration issued the following statement at 5:22 p.m. on Aug. 21:

While the Flagler County Tourist Development Council put forth a proposal for an extreme-sport endurance race at Princess Place, no contract has been approved or signed and Flagler County commissioners have neither discussed nor authorized grant funding for the event.

The Tourist Development Council makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners who either approve or deny them.

The draft contract, as submitted, is not a contract that would be approved. It is the job of Flagler County staff to work through the details, and a date that is further into the future and different venues are among those considerations.

“We fully understand and appreciate the concerns of the public,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said. “We have the responsibility and ultimate say about the course, obstacles and parking and where they are located to ensure it is done in an environmentally conscious manner.”

Most people are familiar with about 100 acres of the 1,500-acre preserve. The lodge parking and legacy school field occupy about 25 acres; Boy Scout Hill is 5.5 acres; the day use equestrian area is 6 acres; equestrian camping area is 5 acres; and, the rest of that acreage surrounds two stand-alone restroom facilities, dock site camping, additional parking about 4.5 miles of maintained roads.

Flagler County also maintains at least 29 miles of trails and fire lines for visitor use, land management and fire protection at Princess Place. Much of this maintenance is done with use of heavy equipment, such as mowers, tractors and bulldozers.

There are some locations that you wouldn’t notice the race had been there. Of course, there are other areas that would show damage for years to come, but we wouldn’t allow this race to happen there.
Commission Chairman Frank Meeker

“I am not going to get too excited about this until I see a map showing me the route, walk the route and review the obstacles,” Commission Chairman Frank Meeker said. “I am an environmental scientist and environmental professional with more than 35 years working in these areas. There are some locations that you wouldn’t notice the race had been there. Of course, there are other areas that would show damage for years to come, but we wouldn’t allow this race to happen there.”

Flagler County would not allow this race to happen in a sensitive area of Princess Place that would create a lasting footprint on the environment.

“We are only at the preliminary stages. We will be receiving specifications on the obstacles so they can be evaluated to determine whether they are compatible with the management of Princess Place,” Coffey said. “We are not going to allow routes that go through the wetlands or disturb gopher tortoise areas.”

Princess Place has hosted large events like the Creekside Festival and an Indian Pow Wow that attracted between 5,000 and 10,000 people in attendance over several days.

“Every day we have visitors, hikers, and horseback riders on our trails. We have fifth-wheel horse trailers and campers at the park. We work diligently to manage the environmental wake that those visitors inevitably leave,” Coffey said. “It is our responsibility to ensure the activities of our visitors do not cause lasting degradation. Princess Place has a special place in people’s hearts. We’ve been good stewards of that property for decades and will continue to do so.”

Flagler County is compiling an email list of all who have contacted us about this matter to keep them informed throughout the decision-making process.

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