Letter: Island Park bike event wasn’t wonderful for everyone

Posted 9/26/23

To the editor:

On Saturday morning, Sept. 9, an event was held in Island Park on Park Avenue. The event was sponsored by Bike Newport and other contributors and presented as a family bike and …

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Letter: Island Park bike event wasn’t wonderful for everyone

Posted

To the editor:

On Saturday morning, Sept. 9, an event was held in Island Park on Park Avenue. The event was sponsored by Bike Newport and other contributors and presented as a family bike and stroll event in the Portsmouth Times. According to the article, it was a wonderful, family-friendly event for all who participated.

However, it was not a wonderful event for everyone who lives in the Park and does business. For over three hours, Park Avenue, the central road in and out of Island Park, was closed in both directions from Mason Street to the Hummocks for this event. Below are some of the observations and criticisms that have followed in the wake of this event.

I have lived in the Park for 45 years and have seen many changes and challenges that my neighbors and businesses have experienced. Island Park is home to restaurants, cafes, beaches, and vacation rentals. We are a diverse and vibrant community of homeowners and renters. Yes, many of us feel that the Park is underrepresented and underappreciated for the income and resources that are generated here and for the overall health of the town of Portsmouth.

I have also been a large-scale event organizer and am familiar with the logistics involved in hosting such events. Organizers of the bike and stroll event missed obvious traffic and access concerns that could have been addressed in advance and would have ultimately produced better results for both Bike Newport and Park residents.

The main criticism is that Park Avenue was closed to all traffic for approximately two miles. Park residents live mostly north of Park Avenue, which provides the only access out or into Island Park. This decision to blockade Park Avenue left many residents confused and angry as to why this had to be done. Compounding this was little to no notice about the road closure. I later learned that some flyers were posted along Park Avenue, but not within the Park itself. I did not see those flyers nor were none delivered to my home.

Delivery services into the Park were stopped during that time line. Companies such as Amazon, FedEx, UPS and others could not make deliveries. I asked our local USPS if they were aware of the road closure, they told me they had not been informed. If packages couldn’t be delivered neither could groceries or medical supplies. Home-based health care services were also likely impacted and delayed.

Regular visitors from outside the state who come to enjoy the free beach, the free parking and the easy access to food and entertainment throughout the day and beyond were equally unaware of this event. How much revenue was lost because these families and groups were turned away?

Businesses were also impacted, losing hundreds of dollars in lost revenue. For example: Graziano’s restaurant, which is extremely busy Saturdays, lost about 80 percent of its morning business. When my wife and I arrived at 9 a.m., we were the only patrons there, and for about two hours the place was dead. They did have some early bird patrons that came in before the event had started.

Compare and contrast that to an event that took place one week earlier on Park Avenue. It was promoted as the “end of summer bonfire.” Signs were posted within the Park neighborhoods and along Park Avenue well in advance of the event. No roads were closed, restaurants remained open, and food trucks, street vendors and even a lemonade stand were able to be set up. A great time was had because the Park organized this and many people outside the Park as well.

Finally, I would like to make it clear that I spoke to both the organizers of the event and numerous Island Park businesses and residents who all believe that the purpose of the event was positive in its goal. However, the execution was lacking and did not take into consideration the people in the Island Park community.

Tom Casselman

365 Riverside St.

Portsmouth

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