Story and photo by Doug Petrowski
Is the community of Brier too small to stage a charity fun run?
Ryan Adkins doesn’t think so. The Brier resident began formulating a proposal for a 5K/10K run to benefit his newly-formed charity “Kilometers 4 Cancer” in November. After a presentation to the city’s Parks and Recreation Board, then numerous meetings with the Mayor and the Police Chief, Adkins was told a run just isn’t feasible in the community.
City officials cited a number of obstacles that make Brier an unsuitable community for a charity run, most notably the need for streets to remain open, the cost of insurance, and the lack of enough police officers to control route security.
Adkins disagrees that the 2.13-square-mile, 6,150-person community couldn’t host a run. “Under the name of cancer everyone can rally,” Adkins said. “Everyone knows someone with cancer.”
Adkins, a runner himself, has assisted in staging a number of charity fun runs in the Seattle area, including the St. Patrick’s Day Dash, an event that has drawn 17,000 runners. He pictures a much more modest event for the first year in Brier, with between 150-300 runners, and no more than 500 participants.
“The idea for the event was sparked by two things, one, my father’s diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and, two, my participation in community building,” Adkins said. “The events are excellent for community building, promoting a healthy lifestyle all the while raising awareness around important cancer issues.”
Following the formation of the “Kilometers 4 Cancer” charity, Adkins began rallying friends to develop a website and design logos in hopes of putting on a run in September. He then brought a proposal to City of Brier officials.
There was early enthusiasm at Brier City Hall for hosting a charity run. “I was totally excited,” said Mayor Bob Colinas. “I wanted to do this in a hard way. My son is a survivor of leukemia.” It was when Adkins began sharing the details of what an event in Brier may look like that, and discussing possible routes for the run, that initial eagerness for the run started changing.
Brier City Councilmember Dennis Nick saw that first excitement too in fellow councilmembers for a charity run. “They liked the idea, but you’re talking about the logistics, the cost, the insurance,” he said.
Adkins insists he had thought through many of the city’s concerns, even offering to cover all insurance and police costs, and gathering enough volunteers for patrolling the run’s route. “Insurance is an issue, but it’s doable; finding a safe route is an issue, but it too is doable,” Adkins said. “All you have to do is minimize the dangers, pay for the insurance, and have a great time.”
Finding a safe 5 kilometer route that begins and ends at Brier Park, Adkins’ preferred starting and finishing point for the run, has been an especially troublesome aspect of the event planning. Adkins’ initial route took runners north from the park along Old Poplar Way, turning south onto Brier Road all the way to 241st Place Southwest, then heading back to the park using 28th and 27th Avenues West. It was determined that the route would require too many police officers patrolling major intersections, and that keeping Brier Road open to traffic with runners along the shoulders would be problematic.
“I have just six police officers total, half of them are working an overnight shift,” explained Mayor Colinas of the size of Brier’s police force.
Police Chief Donald Lane offered another route option with runners leaving Brier Park to the south on 29th Avenue West, then circling back to the park on 28th and 27th Avenues, but that route wasn’t quite 5 kilometers long and would require disruptions to traffic on 228th Avenue Southwest, the major east-west arterial in town, as runners crossed it twice.
As a rural community, with no central downtown core, residents and drivers from surrounding towns use Brier’s main streets, even on Sunday mornings, Colinas said. “You see many of these types of runs in large city downtown areas,” he said. “It’s easy for them to shut those streets down.”
“I’m disappointed, but you have to find the right venue,” Colinas added. “In a residential community it just doesn’t seem to fit.”
Ed Haywood, president of Club Northwest, a Seattle-area runners’ club, thinks a city the size of Brier could host a fun run. “I see no reason it couldn’t be done,” he said. “It’s not the size of the town but the willingness of the community to participate is what’s important.”
Haywood admitted that, for the sake of safety, roads would have to be closed “for a few hours,” a prospect that Brier city officials would not yield to. “I made a strong effort to make it all work, but I still have to consider the citizens of Brier,” Colinas insisted.
With Brier city officials turning aside his charity run proposal, Adkins is now looking at Kirkland as a host city for a September run and is waiting to hear from officials there about the possibility. But he does so with reservations: “My heart’s not in Kirkland,” he said. “I want it to be in this community.”
“I just want to have a run,” he added. “It shouldn’t be this difficult.”