How many of you have had a difficult time jumping on a track to do a track workout? Well, you’re not alone. It may be different in some smaller rural areas, but the urban landscape hasn’t been kind to getting track workouts done.
It certainly is not a new issue but does seem to be expanding. More and more schools and school districts are locking their outdoor facilities up. Here are some interesting points and counter-points.
- Rarely are there any communities that have a public standard 400 meter running track. Not even city parks, recreation centers or ballfields have them.
Here in the Phoenix area there have been huge recreational facilities built – fields of every sort. Much of the money comes from a sport district that was created in conjunction with the Phoenix Cardinals stadium construction. None of the facilities over the entire valley (40 miles by 40 miles in dimensions) have a track.
- The public schools are tax funded by the people in the community, yet, even when the facilities are not used for and by school activities and teams – the locked facilities are not available to the public.
I don’t know if anyone has ever taken a district to task on this. I do know that a good model of cooperation is being forged in some communities. Recently, a local school district worked a cooperative deal with the town for joint use and upkeep of their track – which includes all-comers meets in the late spring!
- Locking up the facilities “protects” facilities from vandalism.
This is one of those false bureaucratic knee-jerk reactions. The fact is that you only lock out those who would care for the property. You do not lock out vandals. And secondly, perhaps most importantly, the more people you have on site at various times the less liekly a vandal will be there! Vandals don’t want to be seen! Duh!
- Reduced traffic extends the life of the track.
Fascinating, partially true but mostly untrue. I talked with a track construction and maintenance/repair company before. The biggest destructive elements to tracks are spikes, starting blocks and the weather (expecially heat and freezing). It is not the pitter patter of (non-spiked) feet running laps as most of us do.
- Locking up the facilities reduces liabilities.
We live in a letigious society. Everyone is ready to blame (and subsequently sue) someone for there own stupidity. The truth is that locking up the facilities does not prevent law suits.
- Create rules which cannot be complied with to reduce usage.
The Tempe High School district I tried to work with to run a track event required a $2 million insurance policy. That didn’t seem too bad since most require $1 million (which really isn’t bad at a cost of a couple hundred dollars). However, for this sort of venture there is no such thing as a $2 million policy. I know because I researched it nationwide. The basic policy for this type event is $1 million and you cannot simply add on a separate policy. They are only stand-alone $1 million policies. Therefore, in the end the rule the district created effectively eliminated any outside track events on their facilities.
Just within the East Valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area there are opposite approaches to managing this issue. Scottsdale locks all school facilities up. Tempe does not. Mesa does not. Chandler does. So, it also is not an “inner city” protect-the-school issue. These are all neighboring cities with higher socio-economic status.
Here is an observation I’ve made. Mesa has by far the most user friendly facilities. They are used by the community extensively. Any given early morning (0530- 0700 before school activities) there are 30-40 runners moving around the track – all speeds. Almost everyone is courteous. And guess what? That school district just finished having all their high school tracks completely re-done. Yet, they aren’t fighting to keep people off!
Oh, and for those schools that lock up their facilities – guess what – wake up! Your tracks are still being used – respectfully and quietly – by many runners who just climb your stupid fences. And they will still be vandalized by those who want to vandalize something. By the way, some of the turnstiles make perfect ladders.
Finally, I have talked with many coaches, runners and running club representatives who have expressed similar concerns. It is a local and nationwide issue. I would love to hear from anyone who has had some success in dealing with their local “powers that be”. With that – I’m off to the track now.