One of the distinctives of the Cabot School District, that of making school facilities as open as possible for as many as possible to use, could come under scrutiny if a solution to a particularly noisome problem at the football field and track is not found.
There are many days each week that the high school custodians have to remove dog feces left by peoples’ pets that have been allowed to run free on the field and track of Panther Stadium, Cabot athletic director Steve Roberts said Monday.
The fact that the district just spent $270,000 on re-surfacing the track makes the dog problem sorely felt, Roberts said. But students are on the field every morning for practices – football, band or others – and while the custodians check the stadium each day, they sometimes do not catch everything, he said.
Superintendent Tony Thurman said that, to a point, he understands, but the problem needs to be fixed. "We request that patrons not bring animals to the facility. We understand that the turf is a nice, large space to allow dogs to run and play but it is not open for this purpose," he said.
The animal waste on the track and field is a rather recent development, Thurman said. "This has become very unpleasant for other patrons and for our student-athletes and band members who practice at the stadium every morning," he said.
Signs with the rules for using the track and field are posted at every entry and on posts in the stadium, Roberts said. "They are on the fence, signs are at the entries, and if you are walking the track you will see two signs on each lap."
The new track has been open since July, and the dog problem seems to have begun then, Roberts said.
But dog feces is not the only problem, Thurman said.
"The new track is being damaged by wheeled vehicles including strollers, bicycles and skateboards. We are provided a warranty … but surface damage caused by wheeled vehicles is specifically not covered," Thurman said. Having to pay for track repairs from wheels is wasteful.
Roberts said the track surface is a layer of bonded rubber granules on a layer of solid rubber and is designed to withstand foot traffic, but wheels are a different stress.
"The big problem is in turns, when the wheels rub sideways," Roberts said. "This is the affect of side loads on the surface," he said, briskly rubbing a sample of the surfacing. "See the pieces fall off?" he asked as some rubber crumbs fell on his desk.
It also loosens the rubber base mat, allowing water to seep beneath it, he said.
The only wheeled items allowed on the track are the gurneys used by emergency medical personnel, and in emergencies the golf carts used by the district’s security personnel, Robert said.
Catching offenders is more difficult than it may seem, Roberts said. The track is open around the clock to allow people who work odd hours the same use as everyone else, he said. "We have come back from trips at 2 or 3 a.m. and there will be people out there.. Last year I ran off someone on a motorcycle," he said.
"We want to do everything in our power to keep it open to the public. But we still have to care for the district’s property," Roberts said.
Thurman gave the same message. "It is our responsibility to ensure that we take care of every facility in the district. We need the help of our community members who use the track and football field.
"We want to continue opening the track for our community when not being used by our student-athletes but alternatives will have to be considered if these problems continue."