The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School held a public forum Thursday night to get input from abutters about the construction of a new track.
Jack Law moderated the discussion, and project manager Joe Sullivan fielded questions from the audience.
The current track was constructed in 1995, and was resurfaced in 2005, according to Superintendent Matt D’Andrea. In 2011, the track underwent a full pavement repair, and in 2017 was again resurfaced. D’Andrea said that according to an assessment done by track engineers, the track has reached the end of its useful life, and will need to undergo a full reconstruction.
Deer Run Road is the closest abutting neighborhood to the track, and its residents are the ones who will be immediately affected.
Richard Johnson, a longtime Deer Run resident, said he had heard talk of moving other sports over to the track. As of now, the track is designated for sports practices only, in order to reduce wear on the central athletic fields. “I wouldn’t want to see that area turned into an actual sports field. If that area turns into where the football game is, and they cut down the trees and put up the stands, that would be a very different situation for us,” Johnson said.
Sullivan said the main objective for the project is to make sure the track and field area is the best for the school. “Within the next six to eight weeks, we hope to hear from the public and create a preliminary plan,” Sullivan said. “We want this project to be a win-win for everyone in the area.”
Sullivan responded to Johnson’s comment, stating that there has been no discussion of making the track infield the primary athletic field for the different sports programs. He said there will be a campus study conducted by Huntress Sports Associates to assess the condition of all the fields, and what the possible outlets are for improvement.
Johnson said lights and noise are two main concerns of his. “The warmup music can be very loud; obviously we don’t want to take the music away from the kids,” Johnson said.
Sullivan told Johnson acoustics are always a challenge, but there are ways to position the track so that noise isn’t echoing through the neighborhood.
Sandy Mott, another Deer Run resident, said she has sent a number of letters to the school suggesting they use the area around the football field for the track. “It would cut down on a lot of money,” Mott said. “If the track was around the athletic field, you would have one area to maintain, as opposed to many different areas.”
Mott said anything to mitigate the amount of noise or ambient light from the track should be looked into. “I’m not complaining about children making noise. It’s the quality-of-life issues.” She said the school made promises to the residents of Deer Run for noise abatement, especially during the night and early morning hours.
Sullivan explained the problem with having a track around a central athletic field is that the surface deteriorates much quicker because it is being used more.
He said it would be most cost-effective for the track to be reconstructed in the same spot.
Jamie McNeely, a Deer Run homeowner since 1991, said he isn’t entirely happy with the way the school handled the original construction of the track. “In 1995 I looked out my back door and there were people tagging trees and holding chainsaws,” McNeely said. “There was no discussion; the school just put it in.”
McNeely said he has been a longstanding supporter of the school, but he expects the abutting property owners to be treated with respect. He said the school promised abutters there would be 50 to 60 trees, each 8 to 12 feet tall, planted between the track and the adjacent property line. “My lot line is about 40 feet off the track. When I sit on my deck, I have a fabulous view of the school buses,” McNeely said. “Not one person in this room wants to come home from a long day of work and look out at the school buses illuminated.” He also mentioned the promise of a fence surrounding the track.
McNeely said a proposed $675,000 lighting system at the track is concern for him. “If you don’t think I would get any light from that in my backyard, I want some of what you’re smoking,” he said.
Not everyone from Deer Run expressed concern with the track. “Whatever direction this track heads in, it has to be able to handle things like the Relay for Life, adult leagues, and youth leagues,” David Wallace, a resident since 1994, said.
Rene Mathieu, president of the neighborhood association, said there have been many promises made by school officials that have not been kept. “You should design this track to protect the residents of Deer Run. We hear everything and see everything that goes on over there,” he said.
D’Andrea and Sullivan assured resident Margaret Moran that in the future there would be close correspondence between the school and all the residents of Deer Run.
Rebekah Thompson of the Field Fund said she was working with the school last year when she heard talk of unsuitable materials buried beneath the infield of the track: “Will there be an environmental assessment to determine if there are things buried there?”
Sullivan said there will be 10- to 12-foot test pits dug in the infield to look for any unsuitable materials and check the soil content to make sure the area is completely safe.