Various complaints arose about the Hood to Coast Relay, but the problems appear to be short-term.

The annual relay, which ended Saturday in Seaside, brings up to 18,600 participants and thousands of additional spectators, volunteers and support crews. Rural Clatsop County residents brace for crowded roads as each 12-member team typically uses two vans on the 195-mile course from Mount Hood to Seaside, as do participants in the affiliated Portland to Coast Walk and Portland to Coast High School Challenge.

"The majority of complaints by far were about drivers being rude," particularly abandoning vehicles to go to check points and holding up traffic, Sheriff John Raichl said Monday. Residents also complained of vans moving only 6 mph to keep pace with race participants rather than meeting them at designated exchange areas, he said.

Raichl did not fault race organizers, but pointed out that at night and in narrow sections of roads such as Oregon Highway 202, such activity by drivers in the relay can present safety hazards.

A relay race exchange point previously in the Olney School and grange parking lot apparently had been moved to the front of the nearby Olney Mill, presenting a poor sight-line for drivers, Raichl said.

Jill Culver, president of the Parent Teacher Association for Olney, said the relay boosts the Olney Scholarship Fund - but people in the vicinity were not warned about the new location of the exchange point.

"It's really a bottleneck right there," she said. If it remains an active exchange point for 24 hours, it should be moved back from the road, she said.

Other complaints included late-night horn honking and markings on Youngs River, Lewis and Clark and Logan roads to cheer runners. Some markings were done in chalk, but at least three different areas had spray paint on the road, directed to an unknown participant named "Amy," Raichl said.

"It's more of a nuisance than anything," said Randy Trevillian, the county public works director. Because sand-blasting to remove the paint would damage the road surfaces, "there's no practical way to remedy it," he said.

However, the multi-colored paint he observed was not in places where it could be confused with survey markings and eventually it will dissipate with traffic, he said.

At the request of county officials, the use of banners and the presence of more race volunteers at exchange stations apparently has helped to keep such problems in check in recent years, Trevillian added.

A telephone number for race coordinators to respond to complaints is required as part of the the organizers' contract with the county.

Hood to Coast officials received no direct indication of problems with drivers involved in the race, nor of paint on roads in Clatsop County, spokeswoman Linda Spirling said. "All the feedback I've had has been positive."

Race exchange point volunteers notified law enforcement of alleged speeding in Clatsop County by people who were not involved in the race, out of concern about overall safety, she added. Reportedly five citations for speeding were issued.

News of another citation traveled wide among participants - police in Scappoose issued a ticket to a runner for failing to wait for a crossing signal.

Race participants who cause problems can be penalized or disqualified by coordinators, Stirling said. The prohibition of painting and other rules are clearly stated in the handbook for participants, and coordinators watch for violations, she added.

Approximately 150 teams moving slower than expected had to skip a portion of the race toward the end because coordinators wanted to avoid them having to finish after dark Saturday, Stirling said.

Race officials also received no complaints about cleanup after the event, she added. "I think in most areas we left it cleaner" than when they arrived.

Julia Hannah, owner of the Olney Store for the last seven years, said some complaints seem to stem from rural residents who "get crabby" because one day a year they must deal with noise and traffic congestion in their area. But she welcomes the event as an important business day to help pay for maintenance of the store that serves local residents year-round.

Her patrons from the race were courteous, she added. "We're glad they stop here," she said. "We need that shot in the arm."

Others also take the race in stride. "It's not really a problem for us," said Michael Saarheim, who works at Olney Mill. "It's just one day."

The Daily Astorian reporter Jennifer Collins contributed to this story.

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