No road races at Monte Sano State Park for the “immediate future” under new policy

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Two Huntsville Labor Day weekend races that started decades ago, will not run. Typically held on Monte Sano — the park has a new policy that will prevent the race from happening.

“Road races are about being fast. Serious runners going as fast as they can,” Eric Fritz, president Huntsville Track Club.

But zero miles per hour will be the speed at the 2019 Monte Sano Road Races 5k and 10k. The Huntsville Track Club’s organized events are canceled, for the first time in 48 years. “This is the second oldest race in Alabama. The run is even older than the club,” said Fritz.

Chad Davis with Alabama State Parks said it was decided in the fall of 2018 that Monte Sano could no longer host those types of runs for the “immediate future.”

The parks system cited safety concerns for runners, campers, and all park users as Monte Sano can only be accessed by a single two-lane road.

Davis says the growth of the Huntsville area has led to a rise in campers and visitors. As the city expands, Fritz says other runs have had to be adjusted. “We’ve been having to redo marathons, we just redid Cotton Row this past summer.”

He says continued communication is the key to helping them work things out with their venues. “We talked a lot about how we can work better, easier and things like that. It was really good discussions with the park, but having the ongoing discussions seem to be difficult.”

Monte Sano Park still works with the track club to host trail runs and other events. The club will also be able to hold their 15k Road Race in October with a slight change in course. Fritz says he thinks the runs are beneficial to the park as they are family-oriented and help people learn about what else the park has to offer.

He says they’re willing to do whatever they can to bring the two road races back. “If we need to restrict the number of runners, make the race a lot smaller, if we need to keep the runners on one side of the road so there can be some sort of emergency way in and out.”

The race was originally scheduled for Saturday. Fritz says they still plan to hold the 5k and 10k road races next year even if they have to choose a new venue.

This is the full statement from the Alabama State Parks:

“A decision was made in the fall of 2018 that Monte Sano State Park could no longer serve as the site for any road races in the immediate future. This decision was made due to safety concerns for runners, campers and all park users that can only access the park via a single two-lane road. With the growth of the Huntsville area, we have also experienced a rise in the number of campers and visitors to the park.

Monte Sano State Park and the Alabama State Parks Division of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources work daily to encourage outdoors activities all across our state. The park continues to play host to trail runs sponsored by the Huntsville Track Club, as well as a number of other group activities organized by local and state organizations. Our top priority is to ensure the safety of all park’s guests – runners, campers and day-use visitors.”