In an unprecedented move, the Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen has voted to close a large section of The Strip to vehicular traffic for 15 hours daily from Sept. 15-20 for Bikefest.
The unanimous decision was made during a special meeting Sept. 9 called by Mayor Dennis Newberry to address growing public pressure to take some type of action regarding parking of motorcycles on The Strip during the five-day Bikefest event.
None of the previous Bikefest sponsors had stepped forward this year to request a permit from the city asking for the center lane of The Strip to be closed for motorcycle parking, leaving the lake-wide event with no real central location for gatherings. This year’s Bikefest sponsor, the Convention and Visitor Bureau, had not applied for a permit, either. Bike Week and Bikefest sponsor events all over the lake for motorcyclists, residents and visitors to enjoy, but most of the congregation of motorcycles is on The Strip.
As a result, social media erupted with mostly inaccurate claims and innuendoes about the city’s role in the process. City officials have noted several times that these types of events are not sponsored by the city, but the city allows use of its facilities so events can take place. It’s not the city’s role to seek out events, officials have said.
The move to bring the issue to the forefront was a combined effort of the CVB, two business owners, the Bagnell Dam Strip Association and Mayor Newberry and the Lake Ozark Police Department.
The city has authorized closure of The Strip for several hours during one-day events but has never closed The Strip for multiple days.
The ordinance approved by the board, crafted by City Attorney Christopher Rhorer and Police Chief Gary Launderville at the request of Mayor Dennis Newberry, authorizes the following:
•Bagnell Dam Blvd. will be closed from Ballenger Road east to the city limits which is just west of Bagnell Dam to vehicular traffic from 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Sept. 15 at 11 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m. Sept. 20.
•Vehicles that will be allowed within the area include motorcycles, three-wheel vehicles, emergency and delivery vehicles and other such vehicles as the Lake Ozark Police Department deems necessary.
•During the times and dates for closure, the center turn lane will be available for motorcycle parking at the risk of the owner of the motorcycle. The exception is areas clearly marked as necessary by the LOPD for the operation of emergency and delivery vehicles.
At the meeting, the Chief Launderville said:
“I have no issue with Bikefest. It brings some of the friendliest people that our police department has ever dealt with. But without an event application or any plans put in place, we have nowhere to go, and I have to do what I have to do as police chief to provide public safety for the entire city. We don’t allow center-lane parking without a special permit,” he said.
Heather Brown, executive director of the Convention and Visitor Bureau, told the board that she would have insurance, with the same level of protection as was provided for previous events, in place before the event; the local Boy Scout troop agreed to help with clean-up on Sunday, and the BDSA, which sponsors Hot Summer Nights, promised to leave the porta-potties and trash cans in place after their Friday night cruise-in.
Launderville said he arranged for a private security company to assist law enforcement with traffic control.