Recreation will take a hit in Peachtree City, unless we act.
On Thursday, October 6, Peachtree City Council tabled the proposed resurfacing of the Riley Field running track until the October 20 meeting and will likely not approve maintaining or maintaining on-the-cheap a facility used by many runners and walkers in Peachtree City unless we the citizens make our voices heard.
This should concern everyone who uses recreational facilities in Peachtree City, not just runners and walkers, because today, it is Riley Field track that might not get maintained, but tomorrow it might be the Glenloch splash pad, Kedron pool or basketball courts, the tennis and pickleball courts, BMX track, or any of several other recreation facilities.
I’d encourage everyone to contact the Mayor and Council at email@example.com and express your thoughts.
Riley Field track is an all-weather rubberized surface over an asphalt substrate, similar to a tennis court. For a decade it has needed some attention, but now, because of no maintenance, it needs to be completely replaced at a cost of 560 thousand dollars. The City has budget for this maintenance; it is not an issue of finding the money.
In no particular order, these are the questions that Council asked of themselves, City staff, and me since I was at the council meeting. 1. We received just one bid from Deluxe Athletics when we should have three. How do we get more bids? 2. Can we use another company’s asphalt paving and then have Deluxe apply the rubberized surface to save money? 3. Can we just do an asphalt track and skip the rubberized coating? 4. Isn’t is just sprinters who need a rubberized track? 5. Do enough people use the track to justify the cost?
The request for quote was sent to many companies, and only two showed up to the bid meeting, but only Deluxe quoted. The explanation for lack of quotes is everyone is busy and doesn’t need the business or can’t travel. Athletic field resurfacing is a niche business so it is not surprising we didn’t get three quotes.
As for using a separate asphalt company, if I were the finisher, I would not give a warranty because the quality of the asphalt work determines the reliability of the rubberized top coat. If we have two suppliers involved in resurfacing the track and there is a problem, both will point at the other.
An asphalt-only track is a problem for several reasons. To a runner of any skill, it screams “this community didn’t really want a track, and this is the on-the-cheap solution.” It is analogous to not putting wood on top of concrete to finish a quality basketball court.
No serious running organization hosts events on asphalt as falling on asphalt leads to more injuries than a rubberized surface because it is much less forgiving, and smooth asphalt is slick on a rainy day.
When Harvard installed a rubberized track in the 1970s, they found their athletes were injured less. Even FCBOE decided all county high schools should have rubberized tracks, and one could argue that the youngest athletes are least in need of a forgiving surface.
An asphalt track would also invite cyclists, roller skaters, and skateboarders, maybe even some golf carts, and lead to the same problematic interactions we have on the cart paths between runners, walkers, and everyone else.
Athletes who run any distance can benefit from an all-weather track. The Harvard study also found time improvements at all distances. A standard track meet covers distances from 100 meters up to two miles or even five kilometers while Olympic athletes run 10,000 meters, a little more than six miles. When the Peachtree City Running Club hosts the six summer track meets, a 5,000-meter distance is typically included every other week.
The question on usage of Riley Field is disingenuous. If we let a facility deteriorate, then of course nobody will use it. I visited the track recently, and it still has doormat sized pieces of rubberized surface peeling up that were thrown to the side, exposing large sections of asphalt. If people judged Peachtree City just by the track, they’d think the City is going downhill.
The Running Club pays to hold a monthly one-mile time trial at the Starr’s Mill High School track because of the condition of Riley Field. For many, many years the Peachtree City Flash youth running club has used Riley for seasons of track and cross country. Konos, a private school, has paid to use it for their cross-country practices, and has hosted invitational track meets for other private schools.
As mentioned above the Running Club hosts a series of six summer track meets that draw 100 to 200 participants including youth track teams, school teams, and kids and adults in the community. Members of the PTC TRI Club and HNL Running club use it. People in the community know about the track and use it for running and walking. When I run there, I see people of all ages. It appears seniors like to walk there because they don’t have golf carts flying around them.
The real issue about Riley track is about the kind of community we want to be. If we value quality of life then we can work, shop, go to school, and play inside the City. Our taxes pay for our top amenity, the cart paths, but we need to maintain our other recreational facilities, too. Inside the SPLOST proposal that went to Council are a host of new recreational facilities, including items as unique but growing in popularity as beach volleyball pits. I run, and I don’t do other sports, but I like knowing that those who participate in other activities have quality facilities they can use.
I asked our current political candidates what they think since they are more likely in tune with what the citizens want. Mr. Kevin Madden is an unequivocal “yes” to properly resurfacing Riley.
Dr. Phil Crane stated, “We were explicitly told to ignore it in SPLOST, and then this happens. I want the track resurfaced. Had we not waited as long as we did, it would have cost significantly less. That’s not the citizens’ fault.”
Mr. Mark Gelhardt stated, “As a long-time runner and marathoner I’m in favor of resurfacing the Riley field track as a running track (not an asphalt loop). The citizens of PTC come here for our quality of life — that includes our recreational facilities. When the budget allows, we should make sure we have outstanding facilities for our community. Currently, the budget allows for a resurfacing of the Riley field track. I am in favor of spending budgeted and allocated moneys for our citizens to use great facilities — like a good running track at Riley field.”
Mr. Kenneth Hamner stated, “I strongly support taking care of our facilities, including resurfacing Riley Field. Not taking care of it makes it dangerous for runners, and it makes future improvements more expensive and complex.”
As of the writing of this, Mr. Clint Holland was contacted but has not provided feedback.
Everyone interested in fitness, sports, and athletics who uses a City facility, please come to the Thursday, October 20, City Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. and make your voice heard. If you arrive early, you can be put on a list to make a public comment for up to two minutes. If you do so, please have prepared talking points ready to go.