Did Ragnar relay trash the Wasatch Back?

Friday , July 04, 2014 - 6:15 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN — Thousands raced through the Top of Utah last weekend for the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay Series. However, some local residents say the runners left something.


Despite the positive attention the event received, a negative response has come from some residents concerned about the litter left behind. 

”My frustration as a  (Ogden) valley resident is particular to Ragnar,” said Bryan Smith, CEO and founder of Only in Ogden. “I've been a part and witnessed the Ogden Marathon, XTERRA, the Amazing Race — a variety of events, but there’s something extremely impacting about Ragnar.”

So Smith posted a “poem’ on his Facebook page complaining about the clutter:

“The sad thing about this event is there doesn't seem to be an immediate cleanup crew, so after days of looking at the litter in my neighborhood I now see it blowing across our yards, into the creeks, trapped downstream into Pineview, stuck in barb wire fences and scattered across pristine pastures.”

Ragnar spokeswoman Elise Timothy was surprised to hear about the complaints. And Kelly Hipwell, the Weber County road director, said there have been no calls of complaints.

During the course, after each exchange, the cones and directional signs as well as all other visuals are cleaned up by volunteers, said Timothy.

“Once that’s been taken care of, the race director goes down the course again,” Timothy said. “We believe in leaving the area better than when we came.”

Smith, however, believes it is the type of race that causes the mess.

“It has something has to do with the mass amount of the people in an area,” Smith said. “Some (races) are organized groups of people, but with Ragnar you've got individual people followed by a group of people in a vehicle - loaded with support materials that get dropped.”

Since the initial Facebook post, Smith has added a video and series of photos. Several friends of Smith have commented, some in agreement others in disagreement:

--- "I was riding my bike around Guardsmans Pass/Montage/Pine Canyon yesterday as the last Ragnar groups were coming past. There was a huge crew of people cleaning up and they had 20-30 filled garbage bags. It looked pretty good and like there was a solid effort to get it cleaned up and I was impressed.” - Thomas Pitcher

--- ”I think we start a FB campaign/petition to shed some light on the impact and the participants disregard for keeping it clean, as well as put pressure on the County to enforce stricter clean-up and sustainability standards on the front-end before issuing permits.” - Peter Baker

Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics posted an article this week about the recent Ragnar race that emphasized its “sustainable measures.”

Below is a list of the items the article mentions as some of the measures the Ragnar organization took to provide sustainability throughout each of the communities during the course of the race.

* They have a certification from the Council for Responsible Sports that helps guide their decisions and practices.

* Cupless is the rule at Ragnar. Participants are required to bring in their own cups to eliminate reusable cup waste.

* Reduce, reuse, and recycle is their mission. They intend to cut down on 60 percent of their waste this year. They also require that there is no Styrofoam at their events as well.

* In order to cut back on the amount of energy they consume, solar and pedal powers are utilized to to charge their monitors, computers, and lights.

* If a trail needs fixing before their races, they improve the trail by partnering with local trail partners that can fix trail tread and structures.

* They also provide education announcements and signage at their races promoting the Leave No Trace seven principals.


In all, Smith is concerned with the amount of litter left behind by the people and the vehicles that drive down the road with their decorated vans and SUVs.

“They drive like they are crazy people. They pay attention to the runners, not the community they drive through -- that’s my impression,” said Smith, who has watched at least four Ragnar relay races. “The pattern is exactly the same every year.”

“I’m all for people getting into it and having a good time, and love the events the community hosts,” Smith said, “but (Rangar) needs to pick up their game a little bit if they’re going to run through my neighborhood.”

Timothy told the Standard-Examiner that when there is an offense reported they take the matter seriously and do their best to address it. She said residents who see a large number of debris or trash in an area are encouraged to take a photo and submit it to customerservice@ragnarrelay.com.

“We do have a community hotline (877-83-RELAY) for those who witness something like garage left behind by runners,” Timothy said. “They’ll need to give details of the specific location.”

Smith makes no apologies for speaking up on the matter. 

“I’m not going to have people litter in front of me and not say something about it,” Smith said. “It’s been a week. They've had time to clean up and they’re failing.”

Contact reporter Morgan Briesmaster at 801-625-4268 or mbriesmaster@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @SE_mbriesmaster. Like her Facebook page at http://facebook.com/SEMorganBriesmaster.

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