(1) Why is there a referendum?
The TC passed an ordinance for a $1.8 million bond to install an artificial turf field replacing the grass field at DeHart Park. The referendum was required by law when 1,200 Maplewood voters signed a petition demanding a vote on whether to install the artificial turf.
(2) What happens if the "NO" vote wins?
The TC will be obligated to meet with the community to find a natural way to improve the DeHart Park athletic field (which is also used by the community for non-athletic purposes). This is stated in the Interpretive Statement on the Ballot.
(3) Who opposes the artificial turf proposal?
Supporters for a "NO" vote include:
Both Democratic Party TC candidates:
Nancy Adams (incumbent) and Jamaine Cripe
Former Mayor Ken Pettis
Former Deputy Mayor Dave Huemer
Maplewood Environmental Advisory Committee chair Bob McCoy*
Maplewood Recreation Advisory Committee chair Heather Saslovsky*
The Maplewood Seniors Advisory Committee
The Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center
SOMA Action Climate
Columbia HS Environmental Club
* affiliations listed for identification purposes only.
(4) Why do these people and groups oppose the proposal?
Some of the key reasons:
(a) An artificial turf field would eliminate the only Green Space in the Hilton / Lightening Brook communities and replace it with a plastic mass.
(b) Artificial turf contains carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine disrupters that pose a health risk to athletes and the environment. The Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center, in a letter to the TC, described the toxins in turf and concluded: "We urge you to maintain natural grass fields in Maplewood Township in order protect the health of the children of your community."
(c) An artificial turf field would cost Maplewood taxpayers $175,000 per year for 18 years, plus the cost of maintenance and the cost of its replacement about every 10 years and no US facility is recycling turf. There are also dozens of lawsuits against turf manufacturers for misrepresentations.
(d) Artificial turf eliminates the absorption of rain water into the soil thus increases stormwater runoff and the potential for flooding in surrounding areas
(e) When Green Space is replaced by artificial turf the ambient temperature of the surrounding area is increased (heat island effect) in addition to the extreme heat created on the surface of the turf field that has to be cooled off to play.
(f) We are in a climate emergency. Artificial turf adds carbon and methane to the atmosphere, grass sequesters carbon.
(g) There is a higher rate of injuries from sports on artificial turf and the injuries are more severe, than on grass. The NFL Players Assn is demanding that all NFL turf fields be converted to grass.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
(1) Aren't newer versions of artificial turf less dangerous?
Answer: The plastic grass blades and backing of the newer artificial turf are the same materials as the old turf and contain the same toxins, including PFAS chemicals which can cause cancer, suppressed immune systems and reduced efficacy of vaccinations. The EPA recently announced it will begin to regulate PFAS in products.
Newer artificial turf products have replaced crumb rubber infill (small particles within the fake grass blades that provide a cushion) because of widespread agreement on their toxicity. However, the new forms of infill, such as cork and walnut shells, are coated with chemicals that have not been revealed.
(2) Why do we hear from artificial turf advocates that artificial turf is "environmentally friendly"?
Answer: This is pure deception. They cite the need to water grass and use pesticides, as well as burning fossil fuel (from mowing) as a means of distracting from the obvious fact that replacing natural grass with plastic is by definition a fundamental degradation of the environment. Since DeHart is an organic grass field, invoking pesticides is a falsehood and they ignore the existence of electric mowers than can replace gas-engine mowers. Their argument also ignores the fossil fuel burned in the manufacture of artificial turf.
(3) Don't artificial turf fields provide more playing time?
Answer: It depends on the quality of the grass field. Yes, there are likely situations where after a heavy rain an artificial turf field will be more playable than even a well-managed and maintained grass field. But the difference can be minimized by professional "best practice" management of the field, such as aeration and over-seeding, and avoiding negative practices like over-irrigating (which has occurred at DeHart). There are also practical methods to increase playing time like shifting the direction of the games to avoid concentrated activity in specific areas (like near the goal).
In short, hiring a professional company that is aware of best-practices field management can offset the advantages of artificial turf with regard to playing time.
(4) Wouldn't an artificial turf field enable the other grass fields to be rested more?
Answer: A better solution would be to apply best-practices techniques, which dramatically reduce down time, to all of Maplewood's grass fields -- Borden, Memorial and Maplecrest -- to create more playing time overall. And preserve the Green Space of the Hilton/Lightning Brook neighborhoods at the same time.
(5) But shouldn't our youth be allowed to play in the winter?
Answer: Many of the MapSo teams rent indoor spaces for winter play. But the demand for "year-round" play has a credibility problem, since the summer months of July and August are already available for playing, but no games are scheduled.
(6) Doesn't it cost more to maintain a grass field than an artificial turf field?
Answer: If you consider the purchase price of the artificial turf ($1.8 million) and the need to replace it every 8-10 years, as well as the ongoing maintenance costs, a turf field is far more expensaive than a grass field, where annual maintenance is rarely more than $40,000 and usually about $20,000.
(7) You talk about health risks, but there is no evidence that anyone has gotten sick from playing on artificial turf in 60 years.
Answer: The Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center is clear on this -- there are known carcinogens, neurotoxins and endocrine-disrupters in artificial turf, but no studies have been done that have concluded that exposure to these toxins have not contributed to the prevalence of cancer and other illnesses in our society. The Mount Sinai group says the responsible policy is to avoid artificial turf until it has been proven safe. And in the meantime, play on grass fields. And to reiterate the main point about Green Space -- continue to allow non-athletic uses of the field by other members of the community.
(8) Why can't we let the kids play?
Answer: The kids are playing on all Maplewood fields and at some others in the vicinity. The Cougar Soccer club likes to present its program as highly successful on Maplewood's grass fields and the Orange artificial turf field which they use as a "home" field. The kids are playing, and a "NO" vote will enable us to enhance that experience further by improving the quality of the DeHart field. And let's keep in mind that all of our kids need healthy recreational options not just the fraction on teams who are already playing on all Maplewood fields.