Published Date Written by Michael KitchLACONIA — The Smith Track at Opechee Park will be closed this spring and not reopened until it is resurfaced, most likely in July or August at the earliest.
Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation said yesterday that the deterioration in the surface of the track, which led to the closure of sections of the oval last year, has become sufficiently extensive to require resurfacing.
The six-lane, 400 meter track was installed in 1998 and refurbished in 2001, 2005 and 2011. Dunleavy explained that the running surface consists of rubber granules atop an asphalt base that are bound together by a latex binder. The rubber granules spread over the asphalt and are raked and leveled to create a uniform and even surface then sprayed with the latex binder. He said that the surface is intended to be porous or permeable to enable water to flow into and evaporate out of the track.
As the surface wears, much like the sole of a shoe, granules and latex are added. Dunleavy said that as additional layers were added the permeability of the surface diminished. As a result, instead of evaporating, water remained trapped between running surface and the asphalt base. With warm temperatures, the water turns to vapor and, unable to escape, causes the surface of the track to bubble.
Dunleavy said that the issues with the track are not unique to Laconia, but have appeared with like surfaces installed by the same contractor at other locations.
Dunleavy is awaiting a final report from the engineering consultant, but said that it appears the rubberized surface will have to be removed from the entire oval and the exposed asphalt milled and overlaid to ensure a secure bond with a new surface. He said that the cost of the project will depend on the type of surface, adding that the alternatives, along with estimated costs, will be included in the final report.
Dunleavy said that when the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) Committee began setting its priorities for capital projects for fiscal year 2013-2014, the extent of the problems with the track were not fully known. Consequently, the resurfacing of the track was not included among the committee's recommendations. He said that he and City Manager Scott Myers are working to include funding for the work in the 2013-2014 city budget in anticipation of repairing the track sometime after July 1.
In the meantime, Dunleavy said that the track will remain closed, which the leaves the schools unable to host running events this spring. Jim Chase, athletic director of Laconia High School, could not be reached to comment on the kind of arrangements that are being considered to accommodate practices and meets.