Main Street to be closed for rally

Gray Hughes
The Hill City Common Council voted Monday to proceed with the annual closure of parts of Main Street during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The decision was made at Monday’s council meeting after the city of Sturgis voted to have the rally this year but with some changes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(The city of Sturgis) is canceling a lot of the structured events they typically have, and they’re putting out hand sanitizer,” said Brett McMacken, city administrator for Hill City. “Everyone said even if Sturgis canceled the rally, the bikers were still going to come.”
Typically, Hill City closes Main Street in the area of the Central Business District for 10 days during the rally to all traffic except motorcycles. This year, Main Street will be closed starting Aug. 7 through Aug. 16 with the possibility of it being either shorter or longer, depending on traffic.
At the meeting Monday, McMacken said it would be prudent for Hill City to proceed with the closure of Main Street in the Central Business District.
A regular closure, McMacken said, at this point makes sense but possibly with some modifications. This year, the closure will have to take into account the new crosswalk in the middle of Main Street by Bumpin’ Buffalo and Mangy Moose due to the bump-out constructed during the Main Street sidewalk project.
McMacken wanted to know, too, if the council wanted to do centerline parking this year as the city has typically done in the past.
“Centerline parking is hit and miss,” he said. “If you have one bike park the wrong way then they all park the wrong way. It may not be worth having the centerline parking.”
Before tackling the issue of centerline parking, though, the council first discussed whether the city should close Main Street and, if it does, for how long.
The council unanimously came to a consensus that Main Street in the area of the Central Business District should be closed this year.
The issue then shifted to how long Main Street should be closed.
Alderman Bill Miner said last year before the rally started and Main Street was closed but when bikers were in town he walked around the Main Street area starting at Polar Street and did a traffic count.
Miner said he counted 101 parking spots in total along Main Street (not including handicapped spots). This year, that number will be different because of the newly constructed bump out.
“If there was one bike in a spot for a car, I counted that as an occupied spot,” Miner said. “Leading up to the street being closed on Friday morning, at 7 p.m. the lowest we had was 74 percent. On Friday when Main Street was closed, percentages dropped into the 40s and 50s. If we are going to close Main Street, I don’t think we should do it for both weekends.”
When asked by alderman Jim Peterson if Miner took into account the fact that four bikes could fit into one spot, Miner said he was just merely looking at parking spots and not how many bikes were on Main Street. Miner, too, said he did not look at centerline parking.
When it comes to the centerline, Peterson said bikers are always going to park there.
Alderman Steve Jarvis said to keep bikers from parking in certain areas, the city will need to put up traffic barrels.
McMacken said the city has bike fencing from the Main Street sidewalk project that could possibly mark out where bikers can and cannot park.
However, some in the audience were not happy about the possibility of not having centerline parking.
“If I’m on a motorcycle and there’s no parking I’m going to get out here and go to Custer,” said Hill City resident Leroy Barker. “I don’t think you need to close the centerline. There have been no problems in the past. I know the bump out needs to be closed, but that’s my opinion.”
Peterson suggested doing centerline parking only in the Central Business District.
Business owner Vic Alexander said he was on the committee that came up with the idea to close Main Street during the rally, and safety was a large concern. Alexander, who is also a firefighter in town, said he has been able to get emergency vehicles up and down Main Street during the closure in the past.
But a large benefit of having bikers park in the Central Business District is that is where the bikers want to spend their time because they are close to their bikes.
“Just because you have a whole bunch of parking by the Conoco doesn’t mean they will park there…because they want to be in seeing distance of their bikes,” he said. “They want to be close to their bikes and see their possessions. Keep those things in mind. You are just going to reduce the total number of people if you reduce the middle parking.”
Ultimately, the council came to the consensus of leaving centerline parking in place for this year.
The council then shifted its focus to the length of time Main Street through the Central Business District should be closed.
Peterson said the time should be like an accordion, meaning it could be lengthened or shortened depending on traffic.
Typically, Main Street is closed from the Friday before rally to the Sunday after, meaning this year the closure would be Aug. 7-16, said Hill City mayor Kathy Skorzewski.
Alderman John Johnson suggested that, this year, the city reopens Main Street to all traffic once the numbers start to thin out. Jarvis agreed, saying that maybe the city doesn’t need a firm date.
Peterson said perhaps the council could work with the mayor and leave it as an “accordion deal.”
However, Miner was not in favor of that idea.
“What criteria would you suggest?” Miner asked. “If half of the parking spots are open you take down the closure? It’s all subjective at that point.”
Peterson said leaving it as an accordion would be the best option.
When it came time to vote, the vote was 3-1 with only Miner voting against the proposal.

User login