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Tough Mudder officials plan refunds

Monday - 9/10/2012, 6:00am  ET

muddy tennis shoes (Frederick News Post)
A pair of muddy shoes was left along Willow Road, just some of the remnants of Saturday's Tough Mudder. Sunday's event was canceled. (Frederick News-Post/Bill Green)

Organizers of the Tough Mudder 12-mile endurance challenge held Saturday at Crumland Farm in Frederick said they plan on refunding or transferring fees for participants and spectators who paid to attend Sunday's canceled portion of the event.

"After thoughtful consideration of the facts surrounding yesterday's Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder event, including the condition of the course due to flooding, traffic and parking issues that occurred, and inconsistent support from local authorities, the decision was made to cancel the Sunday, September 9th event," wrote Tough Mudder spokeswoman Jane Di Leo in a statement sent Sunday via email. Discounts to participants will also be offered.

Frederick Police Department Chief Kim C. Dine said while organizers submitted a traffic and safety plan along with a permit application, the traffic plan was not followed adequately, nor did it accommodate what appeared to be an overbooked event that was exacerbated by heavy downpours.

Traffic near Crumland Farm on Willow Drive was calm Sunday, in stark contrast to Saturday's snarl of 20,000 people seeking to reach the challenge without sufficient parking.

Gridlock stretched from Opossumtown Pike to I- 270, leaving some to abandon their cars on the shoulder of northbound U.S. 15., causing further delays as car traffic was periodically stopped to accommodate pedestrian traffic.

On Opossumtown Pike, visitors parked at Monocacy Middle School or in parking lots near Frederick Community College.

Field parking at the farm turned muddy after a downpour and further slowed traffic in and out of the event.

"It was not acceptable, there's no question about that," Dine said.

He said extra officers had to be diverted from a large downtown event, In the Street, to handle traffic concerns surrounding Crumland Farm. That police presence was added to 7 city officers previously hired by organizers to patrol the event.

Some Maryland State Police troopers also had to be pulled from a speed enforcement detail to help manage the blockage.

Dine said police expressed their concerns about planning and advised organizers to bus people in to the venue in prior meetings with event organizers.

Also, because event parking was located in the county, Dine said Frederick police needed maximum cooperation from all county police.

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins has said he turned down event organizers requests to help stage the challenge. Jenkins said Tough Mudder organizers were not up front about how many people the competition would attract. He also said Frederick City officials should have denied organizers a permit because they didn't have a good parking plan and because of the simultaneous scheduling of In the Street.

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement said he believed the 20,000 participants and thousands of more visitors were expected to show up, though incrementally as various heats in the challenge set off, finished and left.

"I don't think the event organizers had any intention to cause problems on purpose," he said. "There were a number of things that didn't fall into place."

He said earlier planning in collaboration with city officials would have likely helped make things run more smoothly.

Both McClement and Dine said the city needs a better permitting ordinance for large events that take place on private property, such as Crumland Farm.

Such an ordinance would address a large event's potential impact on public roadways, as well as remuneration to the city should extra resources be required, Dine said. He said the city is currently in discussion with Tough Mudder organizers about paying back the city for some of the extra costs associated with Saturday's event.

"The city is working on creating a better process to hopefully preclude things like this from happening again," Dine said.

McClement said if the Tough Mudder organizers plan on returning next year, they should regroup and begin planning as soon as possible.

In the statement, Di Leo said "Tough Mudder is committed to bringing you an amazing experience, and we promise to come back to the area next year stronger and tougher than ever."