A charity walk may move to Durham because of Raleigh's new rules for road races and events.
Starting in 2016, the Triangle Walk to Defeat ALS won't be allowed to use its usual downtown route on its current weekend in April. The Raleigh City Council refused to grant a policy exemption on Tuesday, and organizer Jerry Dawson said the event likely will leave the city as a result.
The problem is that the walk falls on the second weekend of April, a week before the Rock 'n' Roll Raleigh Marathon. The new Raleigh race rules, approved this year, say events can't cross the same parts of town on consecutive weekends.
"We were one of the casualties," said Dawson, president of the statewide Jim "Catfish" Hunter Chapter of the ALS Association.
The race does have alternatives. It could move the event out of downtown on the same date; it also could host the event downtown a week earlier, a month later, or in the middle of July, according to staff.
However, Dawson said that much of the race's draw is its downtown setting. And its date shouldn't be moved, he said, because many people with ALS have difficulty with hot and cold temperatures.
The earlier date would push the walk into March's fickle weather, while May and July risk too much heat, Dawson said. The event already was pushed a week earlier on the calendar by the debut of the Rock 'n' Roll marathon last year.
A contract with the city guarantees the larger Rock 'n' Roll marathon's position on the calendar, forcing the ALS walk to change, Dawson said.
"I'm not asking for a policy change. I'm asking for an exception," he told the council, arguing that the Saturday walk along Wilmington, Salisbury, Davie and Fayetteville streets lasts only an hour.
City Manager Ruffin Hall said the council should enforce its new policy, which largely was a response to complaints about the Rock 'n' Roll race.
"The purpose of that was to provide balance between the events as well as downtown merchants and residents," he said.
"The issue in front of you has nothing to do with the validity of worthiness of the event in question."
City staff have volunteered to drive around the city looking for other locations, such as North Hills or Wakefield, he said.
Councilman John Odom said a change to the rules would "open up a can of worms," even though "it breaks your heart."
Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the city had tried to help, offering different dates and locations, and she encouraged the ALS group to keep talking with staff. No council member moved to make an exception.
"Unfortunately, I think I'm going to have to go to Durham," Dawson said. " I'm just really upset, because it seems like all the other races had a chance to work this out."