DARIEN — A plan to get Darien High School’s cross country program its own running course has cleared its first hurdle with town officials.
The Board of Education conditionally approved the gift from the Darien Athletic Foundation on the conditions both the Planning and Zoning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission approve the proposal. The decision came at its meeting Tuesday night after further discussion was given on the course.
The 18,210-foot running path is estimated to cost $200,000 to $300,000 and would extend around the Darien High School property and through the Diller property, which is controlled by the Parks and Recreation Department. If approved, the athletic foundation would pay for all design and construction costs, according to foundation Chairman Mark Maybell.
Darien High assistant track coach Jane Ott said the path could be a great benefit to the team.
“We’re always on the road for competition. (The course) could allow for days of shorter travel,” Ott said, adding the course would be helpful beyond just track meets, with the team planning to use it daily for training.
Board of Education Vice Chairperson David Dineen said it was important neighbors be notified of the proposal.
“It’s an incredible gift,” Dineen said. “But in some degree that campus is reaching its capacity in terms of the capability to do stuff from a traffic and safety perspective.”
David Ott, an assistant track coach at Darien High, said there would only be one or two meets planned a year, adding Ridgefield High School has a similar course that runs through the school area. He also addressed the board’s concerns of the number of people attending the meets.
“We could suffice it to politely say we’re not overrun with spectators at track meets,” Ott said, joking.
Typically four teams participate in a cross country meet, Jane said, and around 300 total athletes could be participating during a meet.
As part of the board’s decision, Interim Superintendent Elliott Landon added to the conditions that the running course on school property will remain off limits to people who aren’t students or staff Monday through Friday during the school year. This will also include during summer school hours.
Dogs will not be permitted on the running course, Landon said. The athletic foundation will also provide the gates to separate the school property from the Diller property, as well as appropriate signage.
“We’ll get the language from the police department, and when all is said and done we’ll have a great cross country track,” Landon said.
The running course proposal now goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration.