~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Ever since the annual Salute to American Veterans Rally and motorcycle ride roared through Teller County nearly three decades ago, the highly touted festival route has traditionally started in Woodland Park.
The main biker ride festivities generally begin the Saturday morning of Cripple Creek’s infamous Biker and Veterans weekend. The rally participants line up in the Woodland Park High School parking lot at 9 a.m. Once there, the bikers get signed up, have a quick breakfast, then hit the road towards Cripple Creek, and partake in a spree of veteran-oriented events. Scores of spectators and local business patrons in Woodland Park also greet the rider participants, and give them a warm welcome and bid them farewell.
Due to the hundreds of riders that congregate, the Woodland Park Police Department closes down Hwy. 24 through town for a half an hour, while the bikers ride through the downtown strip and begin their ride to Cripple Creek.
Recently, rumors have abounded that the rally organizers have decided to bypass Woodland Park for the forthcoming event. The reason for this, according to reports, is that the city pushed them out of town because it can’t afford the money required to close down the road.
During last week’s Cripple Creek city council meeting, Jim Wear, president of Pro Promotions, the company that organizes the Salute rally, confirmed that the event will no longer start from Woodland Park. “We most likely will not be starting the Biker Rally in Woodland Park this year,” said Wear, at last week’s council meeting. He then told the public the event organizers are working with Cripple Creek Police Chief Mike Rulo to get the starting point moved to a location in Divide.
The decision made by Pro Promotions to move the rally out of Woodland Park came as a surprise to many local government officials and residents alike.
“It’s disappointing that they have made that decision,” said Woodland Park Special Projects Director Jane Mannon. According to Mannon, the Woodland Park Police Department had sought reimbursement from Pro Promotions for the police officer overtime hours that are used to close down the highway.
According to Mannon, a law enforcement agency charging event organizers to close down roads is not uncommon. Anytime a major highway gets closed down by the Colorado State Patrol for road construction or any other reason, the law enforcement agency gets paid for their road closure services.
Mannon said that when she asked Wear if Pro Promotions could reimburse the city for police overtime, she did not receive a response from the company. Wear and associates made the decision to move the rally out of Woodland Park without even notifying city officials.
“We think this is a great event for the city. Our decision to ask Pro Promotions for reimbursement was about being fiscally responsible,” said Mannon.