Thursday, March 21, 2002

Security increased for Beach-to-Beacon race

Published in the Current

With less than five months before the starting gun, Cape Elizabeth already is planning for the Peoples Beach to Beacon race, to be held Aug. 3, and security will be tighter this year than in the past, probably including assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard.

Police Chief Neil Williams said there is a greater focus on security this year in light of Sept. 11, the increased number of racers and fans expected and the international makeup of the field.

Top-ranked runners come from all over the world.

“We are going to tighten up security a little bit,” Williams said.

He said he will ask for the assistance of the Coast Guard to help boost security along the shoreline near the race course.

This will be the first time the Coast Guard has participated in Beach to Beacon security,Williams said.

He also has asked for assistance from the Portland office of the FBI, specifically any tips or suggestions they may have to improve security.

An initial planning meeting was held Feb. 25, and a second meeting will happen later this month, said Williams. The race director again will be Dave McGillivray, who heads the Boston Marathon.

This year is the fifth anniversary of the race, founded by Olympian and Cape Elizabeth native, Joan Benoit Samuelson. The field of racers will be expanded to 5,000, up from 4,000 last year, on the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) course stretching from Crescent Beach to Portland Head Light.

Williams did not want to go into specifics on security, and pointed out that the planning is only in the preliminary stage. He did say he expects security to be tighter at the start and finish areas, and there will be a greater police presence along the course.

In past years, Cape police have been augmented by officers from South Portland and motorcycle officers from Portland, Williams said.

He expects to ask for a few more officers from each of those departments and may approach Scarborough for some additional help as well.

Other procedures, which he described as “technical aspects,” also will be expanded, Williams said.

Of particular concern is traffic at the corner by Spurwink Church, Williams said. “There’s a lot of traffic that comes in at that particular point.”

He recommends all racers leave their homes early and get to the starting line early. There also will be a shuttle service for racers who want to park at the high school or the middle school and take buses to the start.

Williams stressed the security will be precautionary, and that he plans for it to be fairly unobtrusive, “not take away from a fun event,” he said.

Roads will be closed along the race route, and traffic will be diverted, as in the past, Williams said, adding that carpooling to the race and planning ahead for road closures can reduce delays for everyone.

Signs will be posted in the weeks leading up to the race, reminding residents about traffic changes for race day.