The Coon Rapids City Council recently discussed the impacts of a car cruise that took place regularly along Coon Rapids Boulevard this year, and learned a majority of nearby residents would support future cruises.
Organized by the Cold Steel Cruisers last April, the cruise started as a way the community could have a socially distant event during the COVID-19 pandemic, City Manager Matt Stemwedel said.
Although the cruise was not a city event, the council discussed it during a Nov. 10 work session, because it had an impact on the community as its popularity increased.
“The couple of places that we got involved started later, probably more in the May or June timeline, when the popularity grew and grew,” Stemwedel said. “Which meant there was more and more people, there was more and more need for attention from our Police Department, and we were getting some feedback — both positive and negative — about the impact it was having on Saturday evenings.”
The extent of the city’s involvement was allowing some of the cruise participants to park in the Coon Rapids Ice Center site starting in July and stepping up law enforcement. Stemwedel said.
The cruise had some positive impacts. Restaurants and other service-oriented establishments saw an increase in business from it, according to Stemwedel.
On the downside, the cruise required an increase in police staffing for controlling traffic and crowds, Stemwedel said. Officers spent an extra 130 hours of overtime policing the cruise, and duty officers were redirected to patrol the event instead of their typical duties, according to city documents.
The city also received a number of complaints from nearby residents regarding noise, traffic, crowds and littering.
Other residents told the city they liked the activity on the boulevard, and that they liked having something to do during the coronavirus pandemic.
Coon Rapids surveyed residents within a quarter mile of the cruise route. A total of 739 responses were received, but only 367 of the responses had addresses within the targeted area.
Approximately 64% of respondents in the target area considered the event an overall benefit. Another 24% considered it a detriment.
Looking to the future 64% of respondents said they would support keeping the cruise as a weekly event. Almost 18% would support a less frequent cruise, and 16% did not support the cruise at all, according to city data.
Stemwedel said the city wants to be at the table if the car club wants to host another cruise next year.
“I think what our council would be interested in is potentially looking at alternatives — such as less frequent cruising — or managing some of the negative impacts differently in 2021 so it’s not such a big issue for residents,” Stemwedel said.
Cruise organizers did not return phone calls for comment in time for this story.