Runners circle new track option

May 23, 2019

Rochester runners are hoping to change the minds of Park Board members.

Board members voted earlier this month to pave the Soldiers Memorial Field Park track with asphalt to provide versatility needed for holding a variety of events at the site, including the annual Rochesterfest celebration.

“Many in the running community think this would ruin the track and make it unusable,” local runner Cindy Morgan said in an email.

Runners opposed to the decision are planning a sunrise-to-sunset run around the track, which currently is covered with cinders. That will be on Thursday.

The cinders used on the track no longer are available for resupply, and on several occasions, drainage issues have made it difficult to use the track for days after rain has flooded the area.

The Rochester Track Club has pitched Beam Clay, a crushed natural material that would be similar to cinders, as an option for a softer track surface that also could improve drainage.

Mike Nigbur, Rochester’s park and forestry division head, said using the material would add at least $50,000 to the project, while also raising questions regarding maintenance and whether it would be conducive when the space is used for festivals.

Gwen Jacobson, lead organizer for the Hall Martin All-Comers Meet, and others have questioned the city’s price estimate as being too high, and suggested beam clay could work for festival activities, which feature food trucks parked on the track.

Jacobson said asphalt won’t be as safe for young runners attending the all-ages meets held each year.

In addition to Thursday’s event, organizers have started an online petition to express opposition to using asphalt on the track. The petition has more than 1,000 names on it so far.

On June 4, the Park Board plans to review a request seeking contractors for the project. Plans are to have the work done in the fall.

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