Members of the Lockport school board agreed Wednesday to set a goal of March 20 - the first day of spring - to reopen the Emmet Belknap track for district residents.
After a roughly one-hour discussion, the school board agreed to have the track reopened by March 20 under a schedule that would allow residents to use it from 6:30 to 8 a.m. and in the evenings, after activities have been completed, until dusk.
The track would remain open to the public until after the summer when the district plans to have a new fractional track done at Lockport High School.
Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Management Services Deborah Coder said the high school track will not be locked and will be accessible at any time of the day.
The Belknap track was rebuilt as part of the district’s $28 million, voter-approved 2016 capital project.
Residents who eagerly awaited the reopening of the field found the doors locked after the project was completed last year.
School board President John Linderman said the district had locked the doors because of fears of vandalism or damage to the turf field.
Trustee Kyle Lambalzer was the first trustee to speak during the discussion on the track, saying he felt residents should be able to access the field because they were asked by the district to approve the funding for the capital project.
District officials said the track will be open on a limited basis to residents because they wanted to give preference to district students who use the track for school-related activities.
Board members unanimously agreed that there should be some compromise reached to ensure residents could access the field again, and also to protect the district’s artificial turf field.
Athletic Director Todd Sukdolak, who joined the conversation over telephone, informed the board members that artificial turf fields are a much different field to maintain than regular grass fields. For example, gatorade stains are a difficult thing to get out of an artificial field, he noted. Dogs and strollers are not something that should be on artificial turf fields, he added.
The board agreed to add signage to the track to inform residents of the new hours, rules for track usage and how to report bad behavior if they see it.
Board members also indicated that they would like to close the track during the winter because the district does not want to spend money to shovel and salt the field.
Linderman commended the board for their decision on Wednesday.
“The board came up with a tremendous compromise for the public,” he said.