A ONCE ground-breaking 400m running track has been declared not fit for purpose, so community groups have launched a £225k fundraising campaign to upgrade it.

Rossendale Borough Council owns the running track at Marl Pits, Rawtenstall, and when its predecessor Rawtenstall Borough Council opened the facility in 1967 it was reported to be the first 400m track in the country; others were still imperial 440-yard tracks.

However, its cinder surface is outdated making the track is impossible to use in bad weather as water gathers in pools.

Now Rossendale Harriers, Rossendale Triathlon Club, Rossendale Leisure Trust and special needs sports club Rossendale Rays have joined forces to raise the money needed to replace the facility with a more suitable all-weather rubberised tartan-track. So far they have raised more than a quarter of the money needed.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the track has seen an increase in people turning to fitness and exercise with many opting to try the couch to 5k challenge and using the facility to step up their running.

Leisure Trust Chief Executive Ken Masser said: “The running track is a free to use facility and it is well used by Rossendale Harriers, Rossendale Triathlon Club, Rossendale Rays, Casked Running Club, joggers, walkers, families and people wanting to get fit and active.

“However, the cinder track is outdated, can be dangerous, creates lots of dust as the runners use it and when it is wet is it unusable.”

Chair of Rossendale Harriers Graham Wright BEM said: “Unfortunately, when this cinder track was put in it came just a few years before they started to put down tartan tracks which are synthetic and all-weather.

“There is not enough maintenance carried out on the track, there is a problem with weeds and when it freezes and then defrosts it gets soggy and lots of holes start appearing.”

Rossendale Rays use the track for cycling every week, but when it is raining and the water is pooling, they have to cancel the session because the bike tyres cause grooves in the track making it dangerous for runners.

Paul Mulderrig, who helps with the running of Rossendale Rays and fundraises for the special needs sports club, said: “There is a core of people who use the facility to fundraise including the Relay for Life and Rossendale Hospice Colour Dash.

“Everybody knows someone who is, or has been, in the harriers, someone involved with the triathlon club or one of the children with disabilities who ride a bike around the track. It is a real community facility.

“It helps people with their fitness and their mental health and it is also helping to tackle the obesity crisis by helping people get fitter.”

Already all three groups have held community fundraising activities to begin realise the necessary money to have the track replaced.

Paul added: “We have also had support from local businesses and, so far, £65,000 has been donated or pledged.”

Leader of Rossendale Council Councillor Alyson Barnes said: “We are aware of the situation at Marl Pits and are supportive of what is being done; we really want to see this happen and as a council we are happy to work with the community groups to achieve the goal of improving the running track.”

Anyone who wants to support the campaign can contact Graham on 07764 949 199.