Save Ritzer Field

Just saw this online - https://www.change.org/p/save-ritzer-field

Save Ritzer Field

Our community greenspace is at risk!

The South Orange / Maplewood Board of Education is asking for $4.5 million to replace three acres of Columbia high school’s grass field with plastic artificial turf. This decision has been made by a vocal few, with little to no effort to inform or consult with the thousands of high school students, or the immediate neighborhood who will be most affected by this permanent decision. Please sign this petition (and better, email the Board of School Estimate - emails below) to say you oppose replacing our grass field with artificial turf.

There are many reasons to oppose artificial turf, especially at Ritzer field. A few important concerns are listed below:

Health / Safety Concerns:
Plastic turf sheds toxic chemicals, including microplastics, PFAS, methane and other gasses into the air (and lungs), waterways (and our tap water). Athletic injuries are more frequent and more serious.

Environmental Concerns:
Installing the turf would entail total removal of a foot of soil, a living entity, to replace it with carcinogens and neurotoxins. It will likely also kill surrounding trees by intensifying heat and flooding.

Community Concerns:
Turning Ritzer into artificial turf will limit access to the diverse community of students and residents who visit the field every day. Artificial turf would eliminate outdoor lunch breaks because it is unsafe to sit and eat on plastic turf. Yet eating in nature boosts students’ learning and moods.

Today, the field is one of the few integrated social spaces on CHS campus. For some students, Ritzer field is the only greenspace they have access to during the day. Ritzer field is where students gather for fire drills - with a student body of about two thousand, students fill the field and several streets: turf fields are flammable! Where will students go during fire drills? Students will not be allowed on the field without cleats - what about those who do not own cleats?

This plan to remove our grass field clearly does not take into account the needs of the whole community.

Ritzer’s greenspace is also enjoyed by surrounding neighborhood families and people of all generations and walks of life. Little kids learn to ride bikes here, the elderly go for walks, local amateurs play pick-up games of soccer, teenagers make clover chains. The field belongs to more than a few sports teams. It belongs to ALL of us.

Climate Concerns:
The creation, installation and disposal of a 2 acre artificial turf field is estimated to generate over 55.6 tons of carbon dioxide, in addition to other greenhouse gasses and pollutants. The proposed plastic field behind our high school has expanded to be 3 acres, meaning the carbon emissions will creep closer to 83.4 tons of carbon dioxide. This does not even take into account the greenhouse gasses emitted as the field deteriorates. The lifespan of plastic turf is 10 years, after which the entire massive chemical concoction must be dug up, hauled away, disposed of – and replaced.

A Threat to Our Future:
10 years. What do we want the future of Maplewood and South Orange to look like in 10 years? Take into account our rapidly warming climate, and increased flooding and storms and the threats to physical and mental health that come with these changes. Artificial turf will exacerbate all of the worst effects of climate change, reaching temperatures far hotter than asphalt, causing heat stroke to high schoolers who already go to school in what is considered a heat island. Flooding will increase. Ritzer field is at the foot of a steep slope and on top of a buried stream. The field itself has never been built upon. Ritzer field has been quietly performing an important ecosystem service; absorbing water runoff and mitigating the worst effects of flooding. It functions as, and is designated by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection as a managed wetland. If we invest in this natural grass field, its water storage capabilities will increase!

Your opinion as a community member, a CHS student /alumni mater!

To really make a difference, email our representatives on the Board of School Estimate:

Nancy Adams (Maplewood mayor) nadams@maplewoodnj.gov
Jamaine Cripe jcripe@maplewoodnj.gov
Deborah Engel dengel@maplewoodnj.gov
Sheena Collum (South Orange mayor) scollum@southorange.org
Karen Hilton khilton@southorange.org
Bobby Brown bbrown@southorange.org
Kevin Gilbert (Acting Superintendent, Board of Ed) kgilbert@somsd.k12.nj.us
Qawi Telesford (BOE President) qtelesfo@somsd.k12.nj.us
Arun Vadlamani (BOE 1st VP) avadlama@somsd.k12.nj.us

Thank you so much for your help and perspective!


And the counter argument:


They’re never going to stop with this plastic crap! This field has survived for decades as grass, what is this madness to spend 5 million dollars to fix what isn’t broken? These people need to be stopped. 
please post up any future meetings concerning this, my kids are out of school but I am very much opposed to this. 


South Orange has a mayor?


So…they’re proposing to spend almost half a million dollars a year for the foreseeable future on that field…???

(Almost $5,000,000 every 10 years)




Scully said:

So…they’re proposing to spend almost half a million dollars a year for the foreseeable future on that field…???

(Almost $5,000,000 every 10 years)



You forgot to allow for inflation.


jamie said:

Just saw this online - https://www.change.org/p/save-ritzer-field

Save Ritzer Field

Our community greenspace is at risk!

The South Orange / Maplewood Board of Education is asking for $4.5 million to replace three acres of Columbia high school’s grass field with plastic artificial turf. This decision has been made by a vocal few, with little to no effort to inform or consult with the thousands of high school students, or the immediate neighborhood who will be most affected by this permanent decision. Please sign this petition (and better, email the Board of School Estimate - emails below) to say you oppose replacing our grass field with artificial turf.

There are many reasons to oppose artificial turf, especially at Ritzer field. A few important concerns are listed below:

Health / Safety Concerns:
Plastic turf sheds toxic chemicals, including microplastics, PFAS, methane and other gasses into the air (and lungs), waterways (and our tap water). Athletic injuries are more frequent and more serious.

Environmental Concerns:
Installing the turf would entail total removal of a foot of soil, a living entity, to replace it with carcinogens and neurotoxins. It will likely also kill surrounding trees by intensifying heat and flooding.

Community Concerns:
Turning Ritzer into artificial turf will limit access to the diverse community of students and residents who visit the field every day. Artificial turf would eliminate outdoor lunch breaks because it is unsafe to sit and eat on plastic turf. Yet eating in nature boosts students’ learning and moods.

Today, the field is one of the few integrated social spaces on CHS campus. For some students, Ritzer field is the only greenspace they have access to during the day. Ritzer field is where students gather for fire drills - with a student body of about two thousand, students fill the field and several streets: turf fields are flammable! Where will students go during fire drills? Students will not be allowed on the field without cleats - what about those who do not own cleats?

This plan to remove our grass field clearly does not take into account the needs of the whole community.

Ritzer’s greenspace is also enjoyed by surrounding neighborhood families and people of all generations and walks of life. Little kids learn to ride bikes here, the elderly go for walks, local amateurs play pick-up games of soccer, teenagers make clover chains. The field belongs to more than a few sports teams. It belongs to ALL of us.

Climate Concerns:
The creation, installation and disposal of a 2 acre artificial turf field is estimated to generate over 55.6 tons of carbon dioxide, in addition to other greenhouse gasses and pollutants. The proposed plastic field behind our high school has expanded to be 3 acres, meaning the carbon emissions will creep closer to 83.4 tons of carbon dioxide. This does not even take into account the greenhouse gasses emitted as the field deteriorates. The lifespan of plastic turf is 10 years, after which the entire massive chemical concoction must be dug up, hauled away, disposed of – and replaced.

A Threat to Our Future:
10 years. What do we want the future of Maplewood and South Orange to look like in 10 years? Take into account our rapidly warming climate, and increased flooding and storms and the threats to physical and mental health that come with these changes. Artificial turf will exacerbate all of the worst effects of climate change, reaching temperatures far hotter than asphalt, causing heat stroke to high schoolers who already go to school in what is considered a heat island. Flooding will increase. Ritzer field is at the foot of a steep slope and on top of a buried stream. The field itself has never been built upon. Ritzer field has been quietly performing an important ecosystem service; absorbing water runoff and mitigating the worst effects of flooding. It functions as, and is designated by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection as a managed wetland. If we invest in this natural grass field, its water storage capabilities will increase!

Your opinion as a community member, a CHS student /alumni mater!

To really make a difference, email our representatives on the Board of School Estimate:

Nancy Adams (Maplewood mayor) nadams@maplewoodnj.gov
Jamaine Cripe jcripe@maplewoodnj.gov
Deborah Engel dengel@maplewoodnj.gov
Sheena Collum (South Orange mayor) scollum@southorange.org
Karen Hilton khilton@southorange.org
Bobby Brown bbrown@southorange.org
Kevin Gilbert (Acting Superintendent, Board of Ed) kgilbert@somsd.k12.nj.us
Qawi Telesford (BOE President) qtelesfo@somsd.k12.nj.us
Arun Vadlamani (BOE 1st VP) avadlama@somsd.k12.nj.us

Thank you so much for your help and perspective!

There are reasons to be opposed to artificial turf at Ritzer but this listing does a poor job of highlighting them.  Ritzer is school property.  While it is nice that the community is able to use the field for recreation when the field is not in use by the school district, artificial turf or not, the school district is within their rights to limit the field for school use.  Ritzer, like most of our fields is in a flood zone and with climate change flooding will only get worse.  Plastic does not absorb water.  A plastic field will contribute to runoff, not mitigate it.  Cost is a huge factor given that the FTRP is already over budget.  The plastic in the field will need to be replaced frequently because it wears out.  We don’t even allow one use plastic bags anymore because of environmental concerns.  Why should we allow a one use plastic field?


This debate is really tiring.  The only thing you all seem to have in common is that none of you have kids in the schools now.  Maybe there is a strong case for having fields that other teams are willing to play on.  Maybe athletics are an important part of high school.  My kid plays hockey, and ice rinks are not very green, but I think that maybe usable fields are not a bad idea.  As far as the money, we have a long way to go to repair these buildings and grounds due to all of the neglect the public encouraged through decades of voting down anyone who suggested spending money.  If I  have to pay some more to help other kids in the future I'll do it.  


dickf3 said:

South Orange has a mayor?

yes, we do.


DanDietrich said:

This debate is really tiring.  The only thing you all seem to have in common is that none of you have kids in the schools now.  Maybe there is a strong case for having fields that other teams are willing to play on.  Maybe athletics are an important part of high school.  My kid plays hockey, and ice rinks are not very green, but I think that maybe usable fields are not a bad idea.  As far as the money, we have a long way to go to repair these buildings and grounds due to all of the neglect the public encouraged through decades of voting down anyone who suggested spending money.  If I  have to pay some more to help other kids in the future I'll do it.  

Agreed that the debate is tiring, but I'm parent of two current CHS students, who are firmly against turf, as am I, especially when there are so many other building needs.

My kids use the field for lunch, for phys ed class, for fire drills, for large gatherings like activity fairs, many or all of which are likely off limits if it is turfed over. 

If the school had as much land as the HS I attended, and wasn't in a flood plain, I might be more sympathetic to the plan, but I'm an opponent of most plastic turf projects on environmental grounds.  (And yes, I'm an old coot who struggles to understand why my generation could play sports on grass fields, but our children need plastic...)

I'd rather help other kids in the future by fully funding the academically-focused renovations that were bonded for in all of the schools -- given how over budget the bond issue is, I don't think this should be the piece that is protected from cuts.

But these are my youngest kids, and will be graduated by the time this is all done... meanwhile they regale me with stories of the water-damaged classrooms, the bathrooms that lead them to drink nothing at school, and (according to them) the large crack in the wall of the bell tower, which spooked them when they visited the observatory.  (Note: I have no idea if the final complaint represents a real problem, or a cosmetic issue)


susan1014 said:

(And yes, I'm an old coot who struggles to understand why my generation could play sports on grass fields, but our children need plastic...)

Since my senior year in high school in 1982, the U.S. population of 7- to 17-year-olds has grown almost 20 percent.

For boys, my public high school (Greenville, Del.) had a soccer team, a football team, a basketball team, a wrestling team and a baseball team. For girls, we had a volleyball team, a basketball team and a field hockey team.


DanDietrich said:

dickf3 said:

South Orange has a mayor?

yes, we do.

Village President


The high school cafeteria flooded on December 18th due to heavy rain. As a result, the entire district had a half day because the CHS cafeteria was closed. They make food there for the other schools in the district.

A stream used to run through Ritzer Field before the high school was built.

Do you think stormwater infrastructure was included in the $4.5 million?  The flooding in that area will only get worse.


DanDietrich said:

This debate is really tiring.  The only thing you all seem to have in common is that none of you have kids in the schools now.  Maybe there is a strong case for having fields that other teams are willing to play on.  Maybe athletics are an important part of high school.  My kid plays hockey, and ice rinks are not very green, but I think that maybe usable fields are not a bad idea.  As far as the money, we have a long way to go to repair these buildings and grounds due to all of the neglect the public encouraged through decades of voting down anyone who suggested spending money.  If I  have to pay some more to help other kids in the future I'll do it.  

Some of us have grandchildren who go to school in the district.  Please don't make this an ageist issue.


The BOE passed the revised LRFP unanimously last night, which adds $29 million overall, including a couple of million more for Ritzer, but it still must go before the Board of School Estimate.

The original LRFP, passed several years ago, called for turf on Ritzer. Why the change? A Title IX claim pointed out that we don't have the same facilities for baseball and softball. To remedy this, and to allow visiting teams to play varsity/JV games in the same location rather than separate locations, the revised plan includes two softball fields, rather than one.

We've been through enough rounds on this that I don't think there's much point trying to convince people one way or another on whether turf would be an overall benefit to the community. However, I must echo Joan's point regarding the petition's mischaracterization of Ritzer as a place for "ALL of us" that is intended to serve "neighborhood families." It's nice that that members of the general public are able to enjoy it when it's not in use, but make no mistake, Ritzer is an athletic field for CHS. Any decision should be made on that basis and not how it affects neighborhood residents who want to walk their dogs or teach their children to ride a bike there. We have numerous other area parks for that.




DaveSchmidt said:

Since my senior year in high school in 1982, the U.S. population of 7- to 17-year-olds has grown almost 20 percent.

For boys, my public high school (Greenville, Del.) had a soccer team, a football team, a basketball team, a wrestling team and a baseball team. For girls, we had a volleyball team, a basketball team and a field hockey team.

I don't know the numbers but I'd be very surprised if there aren't twice as many girls playing varsity sports as there were when I was in high school. 

I wish there were easy answers but there aren't. This issue comes up every few years and generally it's easier to say no. And that's what happens. But personally I lean toward solutions that will give more kids more opportunities to participate in athletics. 

In a perfect world we'd have pristine environmentally friendly grass fields that could be used as much as needed by as many teams as needed them. But that's not reality. 


It’s like all of a sudden more kids will flock to the plastic field to play sports…we played on grass, generations played on grass, not in any way in pristine conditions. 
This argument about more people using the plastic field is ridiculous and false. Every town that has plastic grass is under lock and key. No one is allowed on the field without permission. 
ridiculous!


jamie said:

Just saw this online - https://www.change.org/p/save-ritzer-field

Save Ritzer Field

Climate Concerns:
The creation, installation and disposal of a 2 acre artificial turf field is estimated to generate over 55.6 tons of carbon dioxide, in addition to other greenhouse gasses and pollutants. The proposed plastic field behind our high school has expanded to be 3 acres, meaning the carbon emissions will creep closer to 83.4 tons of carbon dioxide. This does not even take into account the greenhouse gasses emitted as the field deteriorates. The lifespan of plastic turf is 10 years, after which the entire massive chemical concoction must be dug up, hauled away, disposed of – and replaced.

The primary source for this finding is a 2006 Canadian study for a specific project (with a specific turf product and specific transportation distances). The authors acknowledge that the results “are based on information and quantities that were not independently verified” and “are limited to the methods used and the processing of provided data.”

This being Canada, “2 acres” were actually 9,000 square meters, and 55.6 “tons” were 55.6 tonnes. If my math is right, the conversion comes out to 55.1 tons for two acres. Barely a difference, but, possibly more significant, it’s 55.1 tons of CO2e, which is the carbon dioxide equivalent for all greenhouse gas emissons. So the petition’s reference to “in addition to other greenhouse gasses” is untrue.

Also, since the transportation emissions are presumably fixed no matter how big the field is, the mathematical extrapolation to 83.4 tons is suspect.

Anyway: data that’s 18 years old, from a specific situation, misstated and presented without the caveats — just another cautionary example of info that’s copied uncritically from the web and that takes on an eternal life of its own.

ETA: In small print in one of the tables at the end, I just noticed, the study says the 55.6-tonne estimate is subject to an uncertainty factor of plus or minus 30 percent. Thirty percent.


Scully said:

So…they’re proposing to spend almost half a million dollars a year for the foreseeable future on that field…???

(Almost $5,000,000 every 10 years)



No this is not how it would work - initial cost would be $4.3 million to install 3 fields, they would need to be replaced in 10 years, but replacement would likely not be done at original installation cost even accounting for inflation as you wouldn't need to rebuild the fields just replace the surface.


Jaytee said:

It’s like all of a sudden more kids will flock to the plastic field to play sports…we played on grass, generations played on grass, not in any way in pristine conditions. 
This argument about more people using the plastic field is ridiculous and false. Every town that has plastic grass is under lock and key. No one is allowed on the field without permission. 
ridiculous!

is anyone arguing that artificial turf fields would be open to anyone and everyone?

my understanding is that more organized teams can use the fields without causing the wear and tear that occurs on grass under heavy usage. And that fewer days are lost to cancellations due to unplayable field conditions.


We need to get our priorities in order.  This is a boatload of money, and for that sum we might be able to improve real education.  What happened to our music program?  Arts?  Or for the less academically inclined, the shop classes I remember we had when I was a student here.

The BOE historically seems to divert much of its capital budget to expense items.  This proposal will only expand the capital budget even more, when normal expense funds for better educational opportunities are being downplayed or ignored.  

I think this amount of money could/should be put to better use.


DanDietrich said:

dickf3 said:

South Orange has a mayor?

yes, we do.

Nah, I’m pretty sure they have a Village  President…


mrmaplewood said:

We need to get our priorities in order.  This is a boatload of money, and for that sum we might be able to improve real education.  What happened to our music program?  Arts?  Or for the less academically inclined, the shop classes I remember we had when I was a student here.

The BOE historically seems to divert much of its capital budget to expense items.  This proposal will only expand the capital budget even more, when normal expense funds for better educational opportunities are being downplayed or ignored.  

I think this amount of money could/should be put to better use.

Not sure when you went to school, but interscholastic sports have been around for quite a while. The difference now is that there are many more sports and many more students, particularly girls, playing them than in previous decades. Most view this as a positive development, but it greatly increases the demand on our athletic fields. We don't have the room or money to build more, so the three practical options are as follows:

1. Reduce the number of Columbia students who play sports.

2. Play on a shoddy, often unavailable, sometimes hazardous field.

3. Install turf.

Most people fall into either the second or third category. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

I agree with you on shop and other practical arts classes. As a recent CHS parent, I found the music and arts programs to be exceptional, though that might be more due to outstanding teachers and students, along with substantial parent support, than what's invested from the BOE budget. 


So what is the purpose of underhill field? 

First it was dehart … now their lasers are aimed at chs field… who’s next? Maplecrest? After all these years of sports in school we’re now obsessed with plastic grass. It’s like they seem to have an endless supply of money to spend! I don’t trust them. Remember when we were paying thousands extra for a powder room? Someone is getting a kick back somewhere. This nonsense will never end, the school needs repairing. Do that properly instead of band aids. 


Maplecrest is slated to receive an inclusive playground (zoom or in person meeting at Town Hall for the public to weigh in on the proposal is on Monday 1/29 at 7 pm).  

DeHart and Ritzer are different in a lot of ways.  DeHart is a public park that was originally intended to be a sports complex and then found itself surrounded by multifamily buildings whose residents looked to DeHart for its green space and passive recreation.  Being a public park, there was a public referendum on a recent ballot and the voters voted against artificial turf for a lot of reasons including something called economic equity that does not apply directly to Ritzer.  

Ritzer is and has always been a high school athletic field located on school property. Therefore alternative recreation uses involving the greater community do not become a factor here but alternative school uses do.  It is up to the Board of Education, not the voters,  to determine how Ritzer will be used and whether it will be covered in part or in total with a plastic playing surface.  The Board of Education approved artificial turf for the field several years ago and budgeted for the installation as part of the multi-million dollar capital improvement plan.  The issue has resurfaced because the Board of Education needs the approval of the Board of School Estimate to raise the additional capital that is needed to fund an expanded project that will allow for two fields instead of the one which was originally approved.  The issue here is one of equity - girls need an athletic field too.  Thus the debate is raging again.  In addition to the we need good fields for our kids vs environmental and safety concerns, parents of CHS students who do not play organized team sports are pointing out that covering a second field with plastic will put an end to non-sports uses such as a space to eat lunch, a place to gather for fire drills, and loss of an outdoor school-related event space.  Cost is another factor to consider at this time since the issue would not have resurfaced if the BOE hadn't needed to go to the BOSE to get the additional needed funds.  

It seems as if this should be an issue of one plastic-covered field vs two but the debate is raging again so the end result is anyone's guess.


I hated playing on artificial turf. Hopefully there have been advancements in the tech to prevent the extra injuries it causes when playing sports on it. 


the_18th_letter said:

I hated playing on artificial turf. Hopefully there have been advancements in the tech to prevent the extra injuries it causes when playing sports on it. 

Depending on when you're talking about, there have been major upgrades in artificial turf over what used to be essentially a layer of carpet over concrete through the 20th century. The crumb rubber makes it much more comfortable to play, though that also causes some of the environmental concerns. Kids might prefer a perfectly grown and maintained grass field over turf, but that's rarely the choice, and certainly isn't the choice at Ritzer.

Kids today are completely accustomed to the modern turf, which is used at Underhill and a majority of high school/club fields. They don't even notice it the way we used to and I've heard a lot more complaints about muddy, uneven, un-mowed grass fields over the years.


For **** and giggles, go to the google, type in problems with disposal of artificial turf and see what the internet tubes have to say about it.

That, plus the water runoff issue; artificial turf is environmentally harmful.

What are the provisions for recall of B o E members?


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