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Committee OKs motorcycle ride on downtown streets

August 03, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Tentative approval was given Monday night to have 10,000 to 12,000 motorcyclists ride through downtown Martinsburg in a couple of weeks, despite concerns by City Council members that the event is not a city-organized one.

Jeff Wilkins is organizing Motorcycle Mania, planned for Aug. 14 and Aug. 15 at Poor House Farm Park. Although the park is not within the city's limits, Wilkins asked that participants be able to ride on Queen and King streets to get to the park.

He told those on the City Property Committee, whose members are all City Council members, that the city could block off some or all of the 13 intersections along the route to make the ride safe and convenient.

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Or, Wilkins said, the riders would still take the route but be forced to stop at every red light. That, he said, could cause a traffic backup from the time the downtown ride will begin - 5:45 p.m. - to 1:30 a.m.

If the streets are blocked off, the ride should take 25 to 35 minutes, Wilkins said.

The final decision is up to City Council members, five of whom are on the property committee.

Councilman Donald Anderson said he approves of the ride but wants Berkeley County Sheriff Randy Smith and his reserve deputies to help city police officers.

The Martinsburg Police Department is shorthanded, Anderson said. "We could more than deplete our staff," he said.

If it would not force him to step on anyone's toes, Smith probably would be willing to help, Wilkins said. As a county bailiff, Wilkins works under Smith's command.

Roger Lewis, chairman of the City Property Committee, said taxpayer money should not be used to help support an event that is not organized by the city. Taxpayers' money pays the salaries of city police officers.

Last year, Wilkins organized Bike Night, but leadership was turned over to someone else after Wilkins had a falling out with some city officials.

Bike Night, the city-sanctioned motorcycle rally, is planned for Aug. 21.

Wilkins said Motorcycle Mania should prove beneficial to hotels, restaurants and other businesses in the Eastern Panhandle.

No alcoholic beverages will be served, Wilkins said.

Money raised during the event will benefit Bethany House, a local shelter for homeless women; Martinsburg-Berkeley County Boys & Girls Club; Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation and West Virginia State Trooper Bobby Elswick, who was shot in the head while on duty in October 2002. Elswick plans to ride in the parade, Wilkins said.

"Heavy, heavy revenues" are expected to be raised for the charities, Wilkins said. Motorcyclists will be charged $5 to participate in the ride.

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