Runners maimed on hazard course

A puddle and debris sprawls across much of the track.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Wary of running the gauntlet, athletes are giving lanes on Greater Dandenong’s premier track a wide berth.

The Ross Reserve track at Noble Park has fallen into dangerous disrepair, with two elderly members of Springvale Masters Athletics recently tripping and breaking their arms in separate incidents.

The two women were hospitalised as a result of a treacherously uplifted section in lane 4, club spokesperson Claudio Riga said.

“One broke a wrist, one broke an elbow. Both had to have minor surgery and were in plaster.

“My main concern is it’s a health hazard. In fact, we’ve certainly had more than two falls.”

Runners have been instructed to travel anti-clockwise to avoid stumbling on the lip. Mr Riga has also put out witches hats to keep his colleagues away from peril.

“You can’t run a full 400 metre event if you can only use three lanes.”

The track – which hosts athletics clubs and about 20 school carnivals a year – was last resurfaced in 2012.

Athletes say the surface has been “bubbling” up ever since, requiring patchwork repairs by Greater Dandenong Council.

“Nothing’s been done to repair it since November 2019 – that’s the last time it had maintenance,” Springvale Little Athletics past president Cassie Jacobs says.

“I’ve been at the centre for nine years and this is the worst I’ve seen it.”

On one of the bends, up to four lanes are frequently under water. The puddle stays for days even after modest rainfall, she said.

The section of track was particularly unusable during an unseasonably wet February and March.

Before training, she regularly sweeps water off the track.

Other sections have suffered “natural wear and tear” – potholes, bubbles and uplifted lips all particularly hazardous at evening sessions.

In the council’s 2021-’22 budget, the reserve’s football pavilion is set for a $7.9 million stage-two upgrade.

Both athletic clubs say the track can’t be allowed to degrade another 12 months.

Ms Jacobs said the track was deemed to unsafe to stage the annual regional little aths event at Ross Reserve last summer.

“This year I chose not to do it – our track isn’t in any condition to hold such an event.

“You expect it to be in complete nick.”

Mr Riga said the Masters club didn’t stage district events – “otherwise we’d be getting sued all over the place.”

“I go to a lot of different venues but I haven’t seen any venue as bad as Ross Reserve.”

Cr Sean O’Reilly said the track’s repairs needed to be done urgently for “one of the best athletic clubs in the region”.

“It’s held district level competitions there previously. We wouldn’t want the condition of the track inhibiting future events at the track.”

A Greater Dandenong council officer told a 26 April council meeting that officers were aware of the issue 12 months ago.

At times, the council had been called to address issues of debris and puddling on the areas of the track, he said.

“It certainly needs a capital improvement.”