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Debates over tree removal, costs delay running track repairs in Oakmont

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, June 7, 2018, 4:34 p.m.
Trees need to be removed and the track resurfaced in the lower level of Riverside Park in Oakmont.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Trees need to be removed and the track resurfaced in the lower level of Riverside Park in Oakmont.
The Riverview boys cross country team warms up on the track during a recent practice on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 at Riverside Park in Oakmont.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
The Riverview boys cross country team warms up on the track during a recent practice on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 at Riverside Park in Oakmont.
Riverside Park across from Riverview High School in Oakmont.
Michael DiVittorio/Tribune-Review
Riverside Park across from Riverview High School in Oakmont.

Tree roots have ruined a running track in Oakmont's Riverside Park that the community and Riverview School District athletes use, but the district and municipality aren't sure who will pay to repair it or how much it will cost.

Roots growing out of the ground have created several bumps in the first two lanes of the track.

Officials said five of the roughly 25 trees in the lower portion of the park are the source of the intruding roots.

Riverview High School's track team went without a home meet this season because of the unsafe track conditions.

“I'd hate to see the same problem happen again in four to five years,” district Athletic Director Mario Rometo said. “I'd like to see the trees removed and the track resurfaced from an athletic standpoint to ensure that we have the best and safest running surface for our student athletes.”

Riverview's practices and meets begin in March. WPIAL track championships are in mid-May.

Oakmont budgeted $70,000 for track repairs and $40,000 for tree removal. It has received one bid for the project. Council this month authorized seeking additional bids.

“It's just such a big issue at this point and we don't know enough,” Oakmont Councilman George Coulter said. “I think we go out and gather information. We need what the school's input is and things like that.”

Business manager Lisa Cooper Jensen said the borough received five letters from residents who want the trees to be preserved.

Councilwoman Leah Powers said residents she talked to were split on the issue, and suggested having a public meeting about the park.

“I think that what we're going to find is that whatever decision we end up making we're probably going to make 50 percent of Oakmont angry,” Powers said.

Council Vice President Patricia Friday said the borough's decision about whether to repair the track would be easier if it received a financial commitment from Riverview School District.

“Unless the school district can participate, I don't think we can go forward,” she said.

District officials discussed the track at a school board workshop meeting June 4.

Board member Alex DiClaudio said the district is waiting for the borough to make a decision about the track.

“Once they determine what they're going to do, we will have a conversation about the level of support the district may be able to provide, and when that will take place,” he said. “It's too soon to say definitively at this point.”

The borough bought the all-weather track from New York-based Nagle Athletic Surfaces about seven years ago. It was a cinder track prior to that.

“A rubberized track in good condition is something we'd like to see into the future,” DiClaudio said. “The borough will have to weigh what it can do, and consider implications of tree removal and the impact that will have on the park's usability for residents. The district remains committed to working in partnership with the borough regarding the use of Riverside Park.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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