Many local runners and former members of the Carmel High School cross country program are breathing a sigh of relief after district officials said they do not plan to replace part of the team’s training ground in Greyhound Park with a new parking lot.
Carmel Clay Schools recently unveiled plans to spend $106.5 million for upgrades to its performing arts facilities, athletic fields and natatorium, among other projects. Part of the overhauls proposed at a May school board meeting includes a parking lot near the southwest corner of 136th Street and Stadium Drive that would replace parking spaces eliminated because of the projects. City code requires that the lost parking spaces be made available elsewhere, although CCS can request a variance.
Chuck Koeppen, a 37-year CHS cross country coach whose teams won 22 state cross country titles during his tenure, said the proposed parking lot would replace a large section of a 1K course that runs through a grassy area south of 136th Street where the teams frequently practice.
“It’s one of the few (open areas) that’s left,” Koeppen said. “You don’t want everything to be asphalt and concrete. If they put asphalt in here, where does it end? You’d think the school would want to keep something like this.”
Koeppen, who owns property that borders CHS and is used as part of the 1K loop, reached out to CCS officials to express his concerns. In an email to Current, CCS Supt. Michael Beresford said the proposed plans are “very preliminary” and that the district now plans to look elsewhere to add parking spaces.
“The parking lot noted on the plans was basically a placeholder in case we are required to replace parking spaces lost to new construction. We will be meeting with city officials as part of the planning process and discuss parking options to determine if CCS will be required to maintain the current number of spaces,” Beresford stated. “If required, we will look for other available options for the spaces, not the cross-country course.”
Koeppen, who left CHS in 2008 to coach at IUPUI, and some former cross country runners had launched a petition to urge school officials to move the proposed parking lot elsewhere.
Carmel Cross Country Alumni Association President Jon Ferency, who graduated from CHS in 1985, said altering the 1K loop would be a loss for the entire community. The Westfield resident said he and his wife and two children often run on the course along with other members of the general public. Koeppen brings the IUPUI team to train there, as well.
“This is like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for cross country,” Ferency said. “Everybody knows about Carmel cross country and they want to be part of it. That’s why they want to run here.”