A request to reconsider plans to pave the Soldiers Memorial Field Park’s track failed to gain traction Tuesday.
The decision to reverse course was in the hands of the three Rochester Park Board members — Linnea Archer, Angela Gupta and Chad Ramaker — who approved seeking bids for paving the track.
Neither member requested a change.
“What I am most concerned about is the expense and long-term maintenance costs,” Gupta said.
The potential cost of maintaining the track as a festival grounds while using an alternative surface was the subject of debate.
Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said his staff isn’t convinced using a softer surface would be compatible with parking food trucks on the track during festivals. He said it could add maintenance costs or mean redoing the work in future years.
“Our recommendation to the board is based on that risk,” he told the Park Board.
Rochester City Council Member Shaun Palmer, speaking with members of the Rochester Track Club to encourage a change of course, said he believes an alternate surface is compatible with multiple uses, pointing to a visit he made to a sports facility that uses Beam Clay, a crushed natural material, for running and festival events. That facility has reported few problems.
But the optional materials could come with an added cost, which track club members indicated they would like the opportunity to address.
“We would like the opportunity to raise funds like the Kutzky Raise the Net,” said Gwen Jacobson, an organizer of the Save the Track campaign, which saw 354 people run on the track in a demonstration on May 22, and which collected more than 2,100 signatures on a petition.
Organizers of the Raise the Net fundraising effort presented $400,000 to the Park Board earlier during the meeting to contribute to the cost of reconstructing tennis courts in Kutzky Park.
Board member Chad Ramaker said he’s worried such an effort could hinder access to the $200,000 the Rochester City Council approved to reconstruct the track, which is slated to be spent this year.
“We don’t have two years to raise funds,” board member Chad Ramaker said, suggesting a fundraising effort could be considered to construct a regulation track with an unpaved running surface in a different city park.
Palmer said he believes the council would work with the Park Board if it ends up changing direction, but acknowledged he could not commit his fellow council members to any action. Two other council members attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Without Park Board action, the effort to seek bids for paving the track will move forward with plans to consider approving a bid for the work at a later meeting.
“This isn’t the end of it necessarily, even if you take no action,” Rochester Deputy City Attorney Dave Goslee told the board. “You still have to consider a bid.”
Board President Vern Yetzer acknowledged that nothing is certain and a chance exists for plans to change.
“It might be that we have to look back and find more money anyway,” he said as Tuesday’s meeting closed.