The future of Lake Ozark events

Officials discuss how to handle BikeFest and other big events on the Lake Ozark Strip.

Charis Patires
Lake Sun Leader

Citing overworked officers and an increased concern for safety on the Bagnell Dam Strip, the way special events are handled by the city may be changing.

Officials say they’ve seen the number of people visiting the lake area continue to grow, and after a recent deadly shooting on the Bagnell Dam Strip, the way events are being managed needs to change. That may include limiting how many events are allowed to be held within city limits.

During a workshop held on Wednesday, July 21 at Lake Ozark City Hall, city officials and the board of aldermen discussed how to proceed in light of recent developments. Police Chief Gary Launderville expressed concern over officer burnout and the overtime budget due to the amount of man hours needed to assist during big events. Officers are putting in more hours, giving up more weekends, and it is taking a toll on personnel as well as the budget, he said.

In the last two years Launderville says they’ve seen a huge increase in traffic and visitors to the area which is putting an extra burden on officers who patrol the streets. When resources are concentrated on one area, Launderville says other parts of the city suffers.

“I understand everybody wants to have events on the Bagnell Dam Strip, and I am all in favor of these events — they bring a lot to the city — but we have to put a lid on this somewhere,” he said.

City officials discussed bringing in law enforcement officers from other areas, hiring them during peak times and when demand is needed for additional security.

Launderville said a number of events such as BikeFest and Pub Crawl are not authorized by the city but still draws in thousands of spectators which puts an additional strain on law enforcement.

Held in September, BikeFest brings in bikers from all over the country during this lake-wide event. Bikers are allowed to park in the middle lane along the Bagnell Dam Strip to patronize businesses. In the past the city has granted a permit to organizers that allows the middle lane to be used for bike parking and has approved allowing an open container in certain cordoned off areas along the Strip. Whether these permits will be issued this year is up in the air.

“I cannot support open container in future events,” Launderville said.

After the shooting in front of Casablanca that involved a feud between three biker gangs there has been discussion within the community whether to cancel BikeFest this year.

“My responsibility is to the city of Lake Ozark — the entire city — and safety of this city is paramount,” Launderville said. “I love BikeFest. We’ve met some of the most friendly people, but the last two years we have seen the atmosphere change.” He went on to say that he could see tensions among biker organizations building “and we are not done.”

Mayor Dennis Newberry echoed the need for additional security during major events.

“It’s too big of an event that has been worked on for 15 years to get rid of by simply closing the center lane down,” he said.

One solution has been to enforce occupancy limits but Launderville said “if you build it, they will come, and will keep coming.”

Some aldermen said another solution may be to put the responsibility on the event organizers to come up with funds to hire additional security. Officials discussed allowing the police chief to be a part of the permitting process on future events so he can determine the cost for law enforcement which could play a role in whether the city grants a permit.