The new outdoor track at Riverside-Brookfield High School is off limits to the general public until the high school’s litigation with the village of Brookfield is resolved and construction is completed on land just west of the new Martin J. Kennelly Athletic Complex.
Until then, the track and stadium can only be used by RBHS students or others in sanctioned or supervised activities, RBHS officials say. Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said the decision n is based on advice from the school district’s lawyers, who contend the area is part of an “open construction site” and that the district should minimize liability risks.
“We are hopeful and optimistic that we’ll be able to find a resolution with the village of Brookfield and get that portion of the project completed so that we can open the track for public use when it is not being used by the school district,” Skinkis said.
Skinkis said that although the track and stadium are complete, allowing the general public to have access to the track would make it easier for people to venture on to the construction staging area north Hollywood School, which is closed off with temporary fencing and in rough condition.
RBHS wants to construct a parking lot and new tennis courts on land, but last year the Brookfield Village Board voted 5 to 1 against granting RBHS two variances and a special use permit that would have allowed the parking lot to go forward. The high school district then sued the village, claiming the village board’s action was arbitrary and capricious. The school and village have been in talks trying to settle the case.
During school-related activities such as team practices, school staff members are around to make sure no one ventures into the unfinished areas Skinkis said.
“Whenever there is an event we have supervision assigned, where if it was just open for public use there’s nobody in there to make sure that somebody doesn’t go into the areas that are closed off,” Skinkis said.
School officials are especially concerned about people riding bicycles on the new running track, although walkers and runners from the general public are also prohibited from using the track for now.
According to Skinkis, people climb over the locked fence to use the track or football field “on a weekly basis” and have stopped three or four people who were riding their bikes on the track.
“The new track surface was made for running or walking. It was not designed for bike riding or rollerblading,” Skinkis said. “Once the track is open to the community, rules for usage will be posted. Following these guidelines will ensure that our track will be in top shape for everyone to enjoy for years to come.”
Although the entrances to the track and stadium are locked and a turnstile at the south entrance was specifically designed to prevent bicycles from being brought on to the track, some people have managed to get themselves and their bikes on the track when the gates are locked.
“We have caught on several occasions people hopping the fence to use the track,” Skinkis said. “We even had one family that was lifting their bikes over the fence to ride their bikes on the track.”
Eventually, the track will be open to public during hours when it is not being used by the school Skinkis said.
“The plan is that once the litigation is complete and the site is finalized and completed, the turnstile will be open for public access when the facility is not being used by the high school,” Skinkis said.