Two charity road races will step off as planned after the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office reversed course and decided to provide safety services for spring runs over the Woods Memorial Bridge.
The Child Abuse Prevention Agency will conduct the Step Up for kids 5K/10K April 21, and Main Street Beaufort, USA's Taste of Beaufort 5K will be May 5.
Both organizations already had agreements with the city of Beaufort to have its police department provide security for the portion of their courses within the city's jurisdiction. The nonprofit groups' directors said they also received permission from the U.S. Coast Guard to run over the bridge.
The route for both races have been certified by USA Track & Field.
But the Sheriff's Office originally denied both requests for security and traffic control along the portion of the course that runs through unincorporated Lady's Island.
CAPA executive director Susan Cato and Main Street executive director LaNelle Fabian said they were told by the Sheriff's Office it would no longer support races over bridges.
With runners already registering for the races, organizers feared they might have to cancel the races or move them out of the city.
But Sheriff P.J. Tanner, after hearing their concerns, decided Thursday to reverse the decision.
He said his office denied the original requests to make sure the organizations were not trying to bypass or force city approval. He said the master sergeant handling the requests believed organizers wanted deputies to direct traffic in the city, which was not the case. Tanner said he's not sure how the misunderstanding happened.
Whatever the case, he believes races should not be allowed on roads because they are safety hazards and public inconveniences.
"If that event takes place, we're going to provide public safety, but that's not an event that should take place," he said.
Fabian said her organization understands the safety concerns, but said race's route includes few intersections, driveways and hazards. It also starts and ends at the Downtown Marina parking lot, which she says provides an ample staging area.
The annual runs follow a standard route that starts in downtown Beaufort, crosses over the Woods Memorial Bridge and turns around on Meridian Road, which is within the county's jurisdiction. To safely conduct the race, law enforcement officers are needed at dangerous spots and intersections, organizers say.
Organizations contract with the Sheriff's Office and the city police to provide safety personnel. It costs organizations $38.50 per deputy, per hour, Tanner said.
Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy said he didn't know why the Sheriff's Office got the impression city police did not approve the race.
Clancy said that in the future his office will tell the Sheriff's Office when it receives a request and whether it has been approved.
Both Fabian and Cato said they were relieved to hear written approval was on its way from the Sheriff's Office. They hope to raise a combined $12,000 from the events, which will go to support their operations.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.
Child Abuse Preventation Agency's Step Up for Kids 5K/10K