A month before it will review bids for paving the track at Soldiers Field Memorial Park, Rochester’s Park Board continues to entertain alternatives.
"The track is being bid as an alternate so that when we bring the bids forward next month, you’ll have the option of rejecting just the track and that way the parking lot moves forward," Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman told the board Tuesday.
While prices for paving the track and nearby parking lot will be reviewed in August, a local group of track supporters also plans to pitch an option for using a more natural material, similar to the cinders that were used in the past but are no longer available.
"Asphalt just doesn’t work for all the reasons you guys have heard," Cindy Morgan, one of the organizers of the Save the Track campaign, told the Park Board Monday. "It reduces functionality of the track for runners severely."
The option of paving the track stems from the goal of attracting more festival activity to the site, as defined in the park’s 2014 master plan.
In March, the Rochester City Council earmarked $650,000 to reconstruct the Soldiers Memorial Field Park parking lot and $200,000 for the track. At the time, individual estimates indicated the funding could fall short for separate projects, but a combined paving project could be achievable.
Save the Track organizers are hoping to produce evidence that the work can be done without paving the track. Morgan said they are researching optional materials and needs to produce a solid estimate of costs and functionality for runners and festivals.
Widman said he doesn’t expect the results to be too specific, but suggested should they be enough to reduce the risk of using a new material.
"We just want enough to gain the confidence that you will have good enough information for decision making," he told the board.
While more information is being gathered, Morgan said the group is also looking at fundraising options to cover any gap in costs.
Widman said fundraising was suggested during a June 19 meeting with the group and some Park Board members. He noted other community groups have raised funds to provide park amenities aimed at specific sports, including pickleball, tennis, softball and swimming.
In a Facebook Live video posted after the meeting, Morgan cited disappointment in the suggestion.
"It kind of feels like pay-for-play," she said. "We have to pay extra money to get an appropriate usage of a track that has been there for 91 years and one that we should continue to use."
At the same time, she said options for fundraising are being considered, and a week ago she posted another video seeking ideas and attempting to gauge interest.
"This is obviously a heavy lift," she told the Park Board on Tuesday, noting that the group will likely need time to raise funds and can’t start until costs are defined.
The Park Board is slated to meet next at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 13 in room 104 of City Hall.