The finish line is in sight on a project more than five years in the making, as Williston’s Physical Plant staff puts the final touches on a new 3.1-mile cross-country running course this summer. Crews with a large crane installed a short span over a small stream in early August, representing the project’s most intense engineering work.
The new route, which will be composed almost entirely of grass and dirt, will replace a mostly-paved course that has been used by Williston cross-country runners since 2003, according to Girls Cross-Country Coach Greg Tuleja. “Our current course can seem more like a road race than a cross country race, although the runners love it because of the fast times,” he said. The majority of that course passed through property belonging to the City of Easthampton’s Nonotuck Park. This occasionally posed conflicts with events hosted by the city in space the course occupied. Automobile traffic in the park was also a concern.
“The new course will be spectator-friendly and great for parents and our vast legion of fans,” Tuleja said, adding that, while the new course will take longer to traverse because of its surface, “it will be more of a pure cross-country course than our current one.”
Now that the bridge is in place, work remains to clear the path. The trail has been plotted on a map, and on a recent day, Jeffrey Tannatt, director of Physical Plant, was in the woods with a clipboard and schematics, on what will soon become the course.
On the wooded portion of the path, crews will clear a trail 6-feet to 8-feet wide, then cover any exposed tree roots with 3/4″ crushed stone, followed by wood chips for a level surface, according to Joe Zewinski, grounds manager. On the sides of the bridge, workers will install railings or a bumper to keep runners safe, he added.
Charles McCullagh, Williston’s chief financial officer, said he hopes to have the new course completed as soon as possible, and said he believes it will be ready for the annual Shaler Invitational, a big meet Williston hosts in late October.
“It will be nice for the school be able to say, ‘This is our course,’” said McCullagh. “At least it’s all on our property now.”
The new course will cover trails in woods behind Galbraith Fields, and on fields around the school’s 8-lane track, tennis courts, and soccer fields.
“When it’s done it’s going to be one of the nicer courses that students will see in the course of a season,” McCullagh added.
The new course is one of a number of athletic facility improvements the school included in its campus master plan, which is being updated. Other projects in the updated plan include expanding the weight room in the school’s Athletic Center and making renovations to Lossone Rink and Galbraith Fields.
Communications Intern Nate Gordon ’16 contributed to this story.