A month ago, the decomposed granite surface of the Phoenix Elementary School track was mostly missing or overgrown with grass.
On Monday through Wednesday, students ran in a jog-a-thon to raise money for gym equipment on a rejuvenated track.
“The track was down to its gravel and sharp rocks. This needed to be done,” said Amber Jacobson, who organized a Southern Oregon Runners event that raised $1,500 for the work. Jacobson has two children who attend the school.
Students had been injured using the facility, a nearly quarter-mile, 4-foot-wide loop that runs through the school’s playfield, said Principal Jeff Carpenter. School physical education classes use the track regularly.
“She was all over it. It is gratifying to have parents like that,” Carpenter said of Jacobsen. “It was all hers. It was donations and all volunteers. It just had granite. Once it started fading, it faded fast.”
Jacobson is organizer of the running club’s annual Couple’s Shuffle 10K Relay and Love Stinks 5K run, which happens each February close to Valentine’s Day. The event was run out of Phoenix Elementary this year and had 300 participants.
Besides entry fees, T-shirt sales boosted the proceeds. Event sponsors Ken Brown Construction, Ventana Physical Therapy, May Excavating, Kid Time! and Southern Oregon Pediatrics underwrote the cost of the shirts.
“We ended up selling about 150 shirts,” said Jacobson. “I could have sold more. People wanted them.”
Jacobson’s family performed the rehabilitation work. Jacobson’s father-in-law, Len, ran the tractor, while mother-in-law, Cheryl, did the raking. Her husband, Sam, also labored. All-in-One Rental donated a roller to compact the granite material. When a tractor broke down, All-in-One provided another at no cost.
Work took two full Saturdays, Jacobson said.
Many people walk, run or jog on the track when school isn’t in session, said Carpenter. “After school, there are people using it all the time," he said.
Local residents were happy when volunteers started to weed grass from the running surface, said Jacobson. They were ecstatic when they learned a new surface was to be installed.
“It was crazy how happy they were just when we spent time actually scooping up the grass,” said Jacobson.
Jerry and Zella Swartsley, runner's club members who live about three-quarters of a mile from the facility, said they will be using it more. Jerry runs cool-down laps on the track after running, and Zella walks the path, but they had reduced their use because of the poor conditions.
“It had fallen into real disrepair. It’s a whole lot better,” said Jerry Swartsley. “It’s kind of centrally located in the community, so it lends itself to the neighborhoods that are around it.”
Southern Oregon Runners regularly organizes events around the valley and promotes enhancement of running opportunities. “They were 100 percent on board with the project,” said Jacobson.
Next year’s Couple’s Shuffle is set for Feb. 3. Information can be found at www.southernoregnrunners.com
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.