Des Moines Hosts 10,000 Overnight Campers

June 17, 2013 by   - () Comments Off on Des Moines Hosts 10,000 Overnight Campers

Riders camp out overnight in tents in an unidentified Iowa community. Image courtesy of RAGBRAI website

Dozens of extra police, firefighters and medics will be on duty next month in Des Moines, Iowa, when thousands of cyclists roll into the capital city for a much-anticipated Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) stop.

Des Moines police plan to dedicate an entire patrol shift — about 30 officers — to policing the route, campgrounds and planned festivities on Court Avenue. The remaining two patrol shifts will work 12-hour days to cover the rest of the city while the ride stops in Des Moines July 23 and 24, the Des Moines Register reported.

The ride is making its first stop in Des Moines since 1997. Up to 10,000 registered riders will roll through West Des Moines en route to the official campgrounds at Water Works Park. Thousands more unregistered tag-alongs are sure to join the ride too, officials say.

It’s been more than two decades since the ride came through the heart of Des Moines. In 1992 and 1988, riders camped on the Capitol grounds and partied on Court Avenue.

But when RAGBRAI came through Des Moines 16 years ago, riders camped at Blank Park Zoo, and an estimated crowd of 22,000 showed up for the party. According to Register archives, city officials then said they could not afford to bring the ride through downtown Des Moines again, where more police would be required for security and traffic control.

One of the biggest challenges of hosting the event is finding a place to shelter thousands of campers in case of severe weather or flooding, said Fire Chief Tom Patava. The Raccoon River has already flooded Water Works Park once this year during the wettest spring on record in Iowa.

The fire department is working with the city of Des Moines on a contingency plan but the plan is not finalized, Patava said.

Officials said they hope the campgrounds will remain relatively quiet, with most of the festivities funneled to the Court Avenue district.

Fortunately, Wingert said, cyclists can ride from Water Works Park to Court Avenue on bike trails without clogging up any major streets. Officers on bikes will patrol the trails to ensure people are riding safely, he said.

Wingert said RAGBRAI participants are a generally well-behaved bunch. “We don’t expect any major issues from the RAGBRAI crowd,” he said.

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