Editorials

Our View: Triathlon can be a win if leaders cooperate

Hilton Head Island will apparently host a triathlon over the wishes of the town and county's top law enforcement officer.

The challenge now is to make it work, and we're confident that can be done.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner repeatedly raised concerns over public safety and emergency access along the long bicycling portion of the Ironman 70.3 triathlon.

But he was overruled in unanimous votes by elected county and town leaders. The event was pushed and negotiated by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce. The contract calls for an annual race in late October for five years, beginning in 2016.

Tanner has pledged to handle traffic control and public safety for the event despite his concerns.

The 56-mile bicycling portion of the race is to stretch into greater Bluffton on U.S. 278.

But it is believed that holding the event on a Sunday morning in the off season will mitigate potential safety and convenience problems.

The sheriff is a countywide elected leader, and his department is contracted to provide police service for the Town of Hilton Head Island. His voice should still be listened to as he urges preparation for the worst-case scenario.

The event is perfect for Hilton Head, except for the fact that there is only one road leading in and out and it acts basically as a cul-de-sac. No matter what route was chosen for the triathlon, it would impact that main artery -- U.S. 278. The task now is to work with private communities along the route to limit the problems during race hours.

If disaster can be avoided, the upside should far outweigh the inconveniences.

The event is projected to bring $10 million to the local economy over the five years.

It is a perfect event for the area to achieve some top goals. It offers niche tourism and the coveted off-season tourism. It promotes the area as an outdoors-oriented center for active lifestyles.

The triathlon should help get the word out Hilton Head has been named the only "Gold Award" bicycle-friendly community in South Carolina, putting it in the League of American Bicyclists' top 25 bike-friendly communities nationwide.

The triathlon can be a community winner if local leaders work together to make it so and if residents can cope with some inconveniences.

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