Concerns over city cruises prompt investigation

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Downtown Business Association president Phil Marsh is pictured at work on a Mayberry Cool Cars and Rods cruise in the Mount Airy central business district.

Another cruise season has started at Mount Airy, but not everyone is excited about their first installment last weekend – which led to the launch of a poll to gauge the opinions of commercial operators downtown on the event.

The latest dual-exhaust emissions had barely purged the air when the Mayberry Cool Cars and Rods Cruise-In ended on June 19, capping a 20-month delay fueled by COVID-19, before complaints emerged of an affected person about its functioning.

Sherry Kearns of Mount Airy, who is associated with the Grand Pup Resort Hotel and Spa in the heart of the central business district, made her views known in a letter to the editor published last Sunday (“Reader Concerned About Center Events -ville “, Mount Airy News, June 20).

This included allegations about the chief organizer of the monthly cruise series, the president of the Downtown Business Association, Phil Marsh, which Marsh said were unfounded.

Kearns spoke of reducing downtown traffic to one lane to accommodate muscle cars and vintage vehicles along North Main Street and others to travel around the area. This requires using the parking spaces in front of the shops.

“The event doesn’t start until 4pm, but they block the parking lot from at least 6am,” Kearns wrote in part. “Event runner Phil Marsh was asking people to come around and reserve seats for his friends in their cars.”

Marsh denied this Thursday afternoon.

“No one has reserved seats,” he said of the allegation that favoritism is shown in the parking lot of vehicles participating in cruise events held during the warmer months.

“None of these cones we have on the sidewalk are named after anyone,” added Marsh, who said parking for cruise vehicles needs to start early in the day to avoid logistical issues and is happening. on a first come, first served basis. based.

While he acknowledges that the cruises do not officially start until 4 p.m., that’s when the music from a DJ begins downtown and attendees register to judge the lounge from there. automobile. “That doesn’t mean we have to start parking at 4 am,” Marsh said.

“We have to start parking early – if we don’t, we can’t get everyone in,” the Downtown Business Association president stressed, noting that this is covered by official regulations for coordinated cruises. by this group. “My permit allows me to park earlier.

The large volume of vehicles makes this obligatory in Marsh’s eyes, requiring not only the use of spaces along the North Main Street, but also side streets and the parking lot at the Mount Airy Post Office which has been filled. occasionally.

“I would say it must have been 400 or 500,” he estimated. “They were everywhere.”

When asked to summarize his reaction to Kearns’ complaints as a whole, Marsh had a concise response: “It was totally inappropriate.”

Kearns explained the issues she raised in the letter on Friday, including expressing her dissatisfaction with situations such as the inability of people to park on the street early in the morning and the operation of cruises in general.

“My concern is that whoever manages it is allowed to do whatever they want,” she said of the preparation for events. “I just think it needs to be done a little differently.”

Kearns also said trash was left at the DJ Station, a kiosk on the corner of North Main and West Oak streets near the Grand Pup Resort Hotel and Spa.

Kearns’ complaint would be the first to be raised about cruises so publicly.

Survey launched

The short online cruise-in survey was announced last Tuesday, aimed at downtown businesses.

“It was caused by this letter that was sent that was really unwarranted,” Marsh said of the investigation.

Mount Airy Downtown Inc. has partnered with the Downtown Business Association to launch it with the goal of empowering stakeholders to help improve events.

“So far we’ve received 42 responses from downtown businesses,” Main Street coordinator Lizzie Morrison of Mount Airy Downtown reported on Friday.

“Our downtown business owners are creative people who shared great ideas on how the event could be improved,” said Morrison. “For example, a company suggested having tents on the street to provide people with shade in the sun.”

Other ideas include the parade of vehicles through the city center from the Veterans Memorial Park, which occurs with busy Christmas parades, and assistance with traffic control at intersections to reduce congestion and allow safer access.

Early survey results seem to suggest basic support for the entry cruise series.

Of the 42 people who have responded so far, 87% believe the events should take place on North Main Street, according to Morrison.

Some commercial operators responded that the cruises-in had no impact on their sales or could decrease slightly, but are still open to holding events downtown.

“Likewise, some companies have reported that cruise events are increasing their sales,” the Main Street coordinator said.

Yvette Allen of downtown Talley’s Custom Frame and Gallery seems to fit in with the happy medium of the cruise’s effects on customer traffic.

“I think they’re doing a good job,” Allen said Friday of the event’s organizers.

“We had a lot of traffic in the store,” she continued. “It brought a lot of people downtown. “

On the flip side, the June 19 cruise was a bit detrimental to the business, Allen said.

“We had a lot of people calling and wanting to come here, but there was no parking on the streets. “

Allen also believes downtown businesses should be notified more in advance of cruise arrivals so operators know what to expect regarding traffic.

A good “problem”

“The cruise events have become very important and it is a testament to the hard work of Phil Marsh and others,” said Morrison, the Main Street coordinator.

“I’m grateful to have ‘issues’ like this and I think it’s always a good idea to assess how to handle growth like what we’ve seen with cruise events.”

Morrison said the plan was to leave the survey in place for a few more weeks to give all downtown entities a chance to respond.

“We tried to give businesses the opportunity to give constructive feedback that would help understand the economic impact of the event,” she said. “I hope that some solutions will emerge that will make things easier and more beneficial for everyone involved.”

For his part, Marsh, the president of the Downtown Business Association, urges everyone to take a long-term view on cruises and other activities that could cause parking and traffic problems but are generally beneficial.

“What people need to understand is that these events that we have downtown are what keep Mount Airy alive,” he said, noting that cruises in particular attract people from a wide range of states, including New York.

“We had people from all over.

Tom Joyce can be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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