• 79°

MONIQUE BATSON — Port Neches, Groves communities soon to see new walking tracks

If you belong to any Port Neches or Groves social media group, you’ve heard at least 500 people ask, “When are they going to reopen the high school track?”

And while it seems pretty obvious after almost 10 years that they aren’t, it still seems to be a weekly inquiry.

And I’ll admit, it’s one question I asked a few times in the past. Before it closed down, I would often go to the track in the evening after work and spend some time walking off the day. Occasionally my kids would come along and play football or race (in a respectful, I didn’t raise heathens kind of way.)

For me, it was like therapy. But considering my therapy also includes headphones with eardrum-damaging music, walking around the city isn’t the best option for me. It would only take one good beat for me to lose track of my surroundings and walk right onto a busy street.

I once went walking and landed in the neighborhood between East Kitchen and Ridgewood Drive, only to get lost, log four miles trying to get out, and ultimately needing to use my phone’s navigator to find my house.

For a bit I would drive to Nederland to use their track.

Occasionally I would use the track at Port Neches Middle School. But I watch too many horror movies to be out in the open and alone in the dark.

So I stopped walking.

But this week PNGISD administrators announced an upcoming compromise that should benefit residents in both towns.

“The board has asked us to look into pouring all-season tracks at the middle schools,” Superintendent Mike Gonzales said at this week’s monthly board meeting. “I think it’s important the board realizes that our community for years has wanted to use our track here at the stadium. But because we had several issues with people coming in there and vandalizing our turf and our facility, we had to close it down.”

The turf was part of a $10.2 million stadium renovation approved in 2007 as part of a district bond issue. It was laid in 2008, but began to “come up” shortly thereafter. After filing a lawsuit against FieldTurf, PNGISD replaced the turf in 2012 through Austin-based Hellas Construction.

And not long after, the gates were locked.

However, it was recently noted that the track surrounding the turf needs replacement. The board on Monday approved a $324,640 bid from Hellas Construction to pour a new track.

While speaking with Hellas, Director of Maintenance Jeff Bergeron said, a quote was obtained to pour the same track at Port Neches and Groves middle schools.

For just shy of $1 million, each school will receive a 4-lane track matching that at the high school.

In order to protect it from ATVs or other unnecessary damage, the district will surround both with fences and gates that allow for stroller entry.

Timed lights operated by Entergy Texas will also be added to the areas, allowing for people to walk at night.

“If anything this pandemic has proved to us is that it’s important to stay healthy,” Gonzales said. “Our community has needed to walk out on the streets where it’s not really safe.”

The money for the upgrades, he said, will not come from bond money, but instead from funds acquired by Total.

So start stretching and load up those playlists.

Pretty soon we’re going to be out of excuses for that extra quarantine weight.

Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at monique.batson@panews.com.

Read more here about PNGISD closing out in-person school year with success.