Tombstone is saying no to motorcycles, and it’s not sitting well with many in the community.
Those who have long supported bike-related tourism are saying it jeopardizes their future presence in town.
The mayor and city council are restricting motor vehicles and motorcycle groups from parking on Allen Street, Tombstone’s main drag, upholding an ordinance that has been in place since 2005.
Tombstone City Council received two special requests from the Harley Davidson motorcycle group and the American Legion Riders, asking permission to park on Allen Street for a specific period of time. Council voted on the requests, and they were denied with a 3-2 vote.
Previous councils approved the parking saying it helped both tourists and merchants.
Robert Davenport, president of the Tombstone chapter of the American Legion Riders of Arizona, is outraged by the recent request denials from city council.
“There are only five or six days out of 365 that we make requests to use Allen Street,” said Davenport, “And our events draw in tourists and visitors from out of town.”
Davenport believes that bikers in Tombstone make up approximately half of the revenue that the town receives, and are a huge factor in bringing in groups from different parts of Arizona, and the country.
The denial by city council will affect the American Legion Riders group, as many of their bike games and ceremonies take place in front of their headquarters on East Allen Street.
The ordinance prevents motor vehicles from parking on Allen Street and requires these vehicles to park on side streets flanking Allen Street, which may affect the regular visits of both car and motorcycle groups alike.
According to the ordinance, “motorized vehicular traffic may be allowed for special events for the benefit of the quality of life and enjoyment of the citizens of Tombstone if authorized by the mayor and common council.”
Armando Villa, Tombstone city councilman, voted to allow the groups the opportunity to park on Allen Street, as did councilwoman Deb Bachman. Villa strongly apposes the ordinance, as well as the denial of special requests, and believes it is detrimental to the city’s tourism industry.
Mayor Dusty Escapule, Councilman Bill Barlow and Councilwoman Patricia Moreno voted against granting the group permission.
Corine Hann, an employee at the Harley Davidson store in Tombstone, is confused by the denial. “We have had events on Allen Street before. Our grand opening, anniversary event and Bike Night all took place on Allen Street,” said Hann.
The unpaved roads of Tombstone’s Allen Street date back to the Wyatt Earp days. The mayor insists that the town maintain atmosphere.
“We feel that if we continue to make special permissions for vehicles to park on Allen Street, we are jeopardizing history of our town,” said Mayor Escapule.
Villa disagrees. “I think it is a huge injustice to our town.” Villa has been working on increasing tourism in Tombstone by arranging the town’s monthly Tombstone at Twilight events.
According to Villa, motorcycle and car groups are a large source of revenue for Tombstone, bringing hundreds of members into the town where they stay at hotels, eat, drink and make purchases at the local businesses.
Without the ability to park or drive on Allen Street, motorcycle enthusiasts may find other cities to visit that make it easier to drive and park.
Villa said that many of the motorcycle and car groups that visit Tombstone frequently are “indefinitely postponing their visits.”
Although the groups were denied the ability to park on Allen Street, Escapule did provide alternate parking spots for these groups. “We accommodated both parties that wanted to use Allen Street,” he said.
Davenport believes that the denial is “already causing problems among local bikers” and he plans on taking up this issue with Escapule.
Lauren Niday is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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