This post was sent to us from eCoronado.com member Lei Udell:
Seems like many people are unaware— particularly elementary school parents— that the School Board is voting tomorrow on a request to authorize a contract to install artificial turf at Green Field. The $900,000 cost would come out of CDA funds, not affecting the general operating fund. The larger issues are environmental and aesthetic— do we want to destroy the District’s last grass field and replace it with plastic?
The School Board meeting begins at 4:30 tomorrow (April 7th) at the District Offices, 201 Sixth Street; the specific issue is expected to come up at approximately 6:10 p.m.
April 6, 2011
Governing Board of Trustees
Coronado Unified School District
201 Sixth Street
Coronado, CA 92118
Re: Please Reject Proposal to Authorize Artificial Turf for Green Field
Dear School Board Members:
I am writing to ask you to reject the requested authorization to award a contract for the installation of artificial turf on the Green Field at Village Elementary School (Item 7.10 under the consolidated motion for consent calendar). Green Field should be left a natural grass field.
Natural Turf is More Functional and More Comfortable
Green Field is used by all Coronado students. The high school uses it for girls’ softball and for special events including the annual softball face-off between CHS and CMS faculty, giant inflatables, carnivals, and parking for vendors during artisan’s alley. CMS uses it for softball as well, and Village Elementary uses it for p.e., recess, and special events. The community also uses the field for events such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. These uses require a surface that tolerates activities beyond merely running. The field is conducive to gathering, sitting, lying, socializing and resting in the grass. It is also driven upon, sat upon, dug into, eaten upon, and yes, spit, sweated and spilled upon.
Artificial turf will eliminate many of these uses. It is hard, hot, and uncomfortable to sit on, and the black rubber grains get all over you. No food or drink is allowed on it. Stakes cannot be driven into it, nor can cars drive upon it. This is the last grass field in the District. The District should preserve it, for there is no other location for some of these activities.
Natural Turf is Safer and Healthier for Our Students as Children and as Athletes
Artificial turf is more dangerous than natural turf for athletic and recreational use in at least three respects. As a cause of immediate athletic injuries, artificial turf is more dangerous than natural turf because (1) it is abrasive, hard and inflexible; and (2) it is hot. In the long term, it may also pose serious health hazards because (3) it contains lead and other chemicals.
The hardness of an artificial turf field can result in serious athletic injury. A 2004 study of high school athletic injuries found higher rates of injury (surface to skin injuries, or “turf burn,” and muscle strains and spasms) on artificial turf than natural turf. Professional athletes decline to play on artificial turf and attribute it to more frequent injuries. Has the Board inquired into the injury statistics at CHS and CMS since the introduction of artificial turf on their fields?
The higher incidence of turf burns on artificial turf also raises a concern of field cleanliness, as such skin wounds are easily infected. Abrasive artificial turf was blamed for several cases of MRSA staph infections by the Center for Disease Control in a 2003 study.
Of greater concern is the increase in air and surface temperature caused by artificial turf. Anyone who has experienced the CMS and CHS fields before and after they received artificial turf has surely felt the difference. When Brigham Young University studied the difference in surface and air temperatures of its natural and artificial turf under identical conditions, the results were shocking: when the air temperature was around 80 degrees, the artificial turf was 37 degrees hotter than asphalt—and 86 degrees hotter than natural grass fields. Similar results were reported by the University of Missouri and Penn State University.
Young athletes die of heat-related injuries with distressing frequency; especially football players, with their hot, heavy padding, and athletes with asthma and heart conditions. The heat of artificial turf increases the risk of these deaths; not to mention the risk of contact burns and blisters. For recreational use, hot artificial turf is no fun. Our students swelter in August through October as it is, without increasing the heat of the surrounding environment. Recess on green field is a break from the hot classroom. The District should keep it that way.
Beyond increasing the incidence of athletic injuries, artificial turf also poses a systemic health risk due to potential contamination by lead and other chemicals. The ground rubber infill in these fields is made from old tires, which are themselves considered an environmental hazard. Fields made from nylon or nylon/polyethy-lene blend fibers may contain lead. Some schools have had to tear out their artificial turf in light of the risk of lead poisoning. To reduce this risk, the EPA recommends precautions such as watering the fields before and after use, to reduce dust raised by heavy play -- thus reducing water conservation, artificial turf’s sole advantage.
Artificial Turf is Bad for Our Environment
The increase in temperature affects not just the students on the fields; it affects the entire neighborhood and our community. Grass acts as a natural air conditioner. By tearing out the field and replacing it with artificial turf, the District will be destroying the effect of about 40 tons of air conditioning, and replacing it with a furnace. Beyond heating up the immediate environment, the artificial turf will also decrease the oxygen we are putting into the atmosphere. Grass absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and releases oxygen. We need it to breathe.
The promise of water savings with artificial turf appears exaggerated, if not illusory. Artificial turf is still watered. I have seen sprinklers watering the new lawn bowling field at the senior center. Watering is recommended to lower the temperature of the artificial turf, and to reduce dust and potential lead risks. It is probably necessary for field sanitation as well. Water conservation appears to be a questionable basis for going artificial.
Artificial turf poses unanswered questions and potential health risks. What kind of chemicals does it release into the environment as it weathers and deteriorates? Can these chemicals leach into our ocean? How do we dispose of the turf when it is worn out? Do these materials ever decay?
If there were some pressing need for artificial turf, perhaps these unknowns would pale in the face of some huge benefit to be gained; but that is not the case here. And once the District goes artificial, going back is a difficult, if not impossible, and costly process. “[O]nce plastic replaces natural grass, it kills any living organism in the subsoil[,] making it impossible without years of soil remediation to grow anything on that surface.”
Artificial Turf May Not Save Money
Installing the artificial turf would be a huge expense; the Consolidated Motion asks the Board to authorize a $900,000 contract. The main advantage touted for artificial turf is lower maintenance costs. The evidence is mixed, however, and many of the sources cited in this letter have found the maintenance savings smaller than promised. Costs are incurred for repairs, cleaning, refilling, and even watering, as noted above. What has the District’s own experience been with the other artificial turf fields?
There are Cost-Effective Alternatives to Improve the Natural Turf at Green Field
The safety, health, and environmental benefits of natural turf provide strong incentives to keep it. If improvements are required, the District should investigate new turf varieties, or new maintenance and land management approaches to reduce costs and improve turf health and durability. We have local companies that are experts in this field, and plenty of other resources exist. If the District insists on pursuing artificial turf, I would like to see a cost-benefit analysis and comparison between artificial and natural turf.
The Existence of CDA Funds Is Not Sufficient Justification to Spend Them
In light of recent concerns that redevelopment agency funds may be appropriated by the State, many such agencies are looking to spend or commit their currently available funds before they lose them. The District should resist acting in this manner. The threat to such agencies appears to have abated for the time being. Moreover, this type of “use it or lose it” philosophy leads to wasteful and unnecessary spending. As Coronadans, all of us in this community are also Californians. If these moneys must be turned over to the state, we will still see their benefit in some form—possibly even as a restoration of some unrestricted education funding. The fact that we have the funds is not, in itself, a reason to install artificial turf on Green Field.
In sum, the District should not rush to approve the expenditure of nearly $1 million to install a plastic surface that is hot, uncomfortable, ugly, and limiting. Artificial turf poses health and safety risks to our students and environmental injuries to our community. It carries a high price tag and offers little or no benefit to be gained. Please, do not do this disservice to our community.
Lei & David Udell
1327 8th Street • Coronado, CA 92118
firstname.lastname@example.org • (619) 522-0067
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