Durham Parkrun forced to cancel after University plant trees on route

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Durham City’s Parkrun has been cancelled following Durham University’s decision to plant hundreds of trees on parts of the course.

The trees were planted on private land owned by the university, as part of a development project at Maiden Castle Sports Centre.

Voluntary organisers posted images of the newly-planted saplings obstructing route onto their Facebook page. The accompanying caption read: “These pictures tell a thousand words and without any warning Durham University have planted 100s of trees across our parkrun route.

“We are working our hardest to find an alternative route, but sadly this will not be in time for this Saturday.”

The trees were planted on private land owned by the university, as part of a development project at Maiden Castle Sports Centre.

Initially mistaken for mole hills, runners first noticed a small number of mounds at the Parkrun event last Saturday. Days later, hundreds of trees were found, preventing over 350 runners from starting the course due to the parts of the course being narrowed to 2-3 yards wide.

The reaction from the local Durham community was mixed; some runners praised the eco-friendly nature of the initiative. Catherine Folley, a local runner commented: “What a great initiative. The more trees planted the better for the environment.”

Others critiqued the lack of communication from the University. The disruption now means that runners will now have to travel to other Parkrun events in the area to complete the weekly event.

“What a great initiative. The more trees planted the better for the environment.”

Catherine Folley, runner at Durham Parkrun

Durham Parkrun later issued a statement to their Facebook Page: “We would just like to clarify that we are not against the planting of trees and are grateful, as ever, to the university for allowing us to use their facilities as they have done for all of our 361 runs.

“Of course we need time to find a new 5k route and will work with the university to achieve this over the weekend. In the meantime we hope you all enjoy some Parkrun tourism on Saturday, we’ll see you all back at Durham Parkrun ASAP! #loveparkrun”

Speaking to Palatinate, Antony Clish, the co-event Director at Durham Parkrun, emphasised his support of the University for “their hospitality towards us as an event,” but critiqued the lack of communication: “It is just frustrating that the University doesn’t tell you when things are happening. There was a similar scenario when the large fence was put up around the track, meaning we had to change our route which used to run a lap around the track […] Had we of known about [the decision to plant trees on the course] before, we could’ve planned ahead.”

“It is just frustrating that the University doesn’t tell you when things are happening”

Antony Clish, co-event Director at Durham Parkrun

Commenting on the response to Durham Parkrun’s Facebook post, Mr. Clish said: “There was a mixture of responses to the Facebook post; some were saying it was great to plant trees since it is good for the environment, but others were a lot more negative about the university’s decision.”

He continued: “I wouldn’t want to come across in any way, shape or form as being negative about the support we have received over all these years from the university – we celebrated our 7th birthday last year, and have hosted over 361 Parkrun events, so the university has been a key support for us. Individuals in the university have also put a lot of time into the Parkrun. The criticism is purely because we didn’t know it was happening.

“We are very keen to increase the student population at Parkrun, even just for the sense of community and the benefits it provides for their mental health.

Mr. Clish also added: “We have had discussions with the University and they have reaffirmed their commitment to us as an event, and will work with us to come up with a different route as soon as possible, however tricky that may be. Hopefully, we can reach a solution relatively quickly in an ideal world.”

This setback follows Durham University Athletics & Cross Country Club’s announcement of a new inter-collegiate event, held at the Durham Parkrun event, where runners earn points both for participation and for the top ranking athletes from each college.

Will Ritchie-Moulin, President of Team Durham, told Palatinate: “Despite the setback Team Durham are really looking forward to a closer relationship with Parkrun with the advent of inter-college XC league. We hope that a lapse in communication won’t spoil what is a productive and exciting event.”

“We hope that a lapse in communication won’t spoil what is a productive and exciting event.”

Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), said: “We’ve proudly supported this much-loved community event over 350 times, and we’ve every intention of doing so for the next 350 and beyond.

“The trees are a condition of planning permission. The holes to plant the trees were unexpectedly dug over the last few days, but we’re working with Parkrun to quickly devise an alternative route in time for the weekend after next.

“Prior to Parkrun’s post, we’d already met with the organisers and we’ll be meeting again on Saturday with the objective of finalising an alternative route.

“Maiden Castle is a large site and we’ll find an alternative area for Parkrun to start.”

Photograph: Durham University 

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