The Turf War Returns

Since this issue has resurfaced - just wanted to share a thread on our thoughts on the subject back in 2008:

https://maplewood.worldwebs.com/forums/discussion/time-to-say-enough-vote-no-on-artificial-turf


Talk about the fields at the last meeting start at 2:58:35

The committee in the end agreed to retain an expert to prepare a phased in report on the feasibility of turfing DeHart Park and costs associated with various types of turf that are available.


Who gonna pay for this ****?


Formerlyjerseyjack said:

Who gonna pay for this ****?

 last time around there were state and county grants lined to pay for it.  But of course just asking the question led a lot of people to reflexively vote no.  So we'll see what happens this time.


And there I was, three years later, looking to avoid moving somewhere where a lot of people voted reflexively. I should’ve known better.

Thanks for the archival link, jamie. An interesting, informative read.


Nancy quoted a possible price of 10 million dollars for 10 years.  Sounds pricey.


DaveSchmidt said:

And there I was, three years later, looking to avoid moving somewhere where a lot of people voted reflexively. I should’ve known better.

Thanks for the archival link, jamie. An interesting, informative read.

 Are you still looking for a place where a lot of people do not vote reflexively?

Ever hear of a guy called Diogenes?


STANV said:

 Are you still looking for a place where a lot of people do not vote reflexively?

Ever hear of a guy called Diogenes?

Apparently yes. And yes. 


DaveSchmidt said:

And there I was, three years later, looking to avoid moving somewhere where a lot of people voted reflexively. I should’ve known better.

Thanks for the archival link, jamie. An interesting, informative read.

As soon as a few people asked "how are we going to pay for it" there were others who immediately responded they were voting "no" before the question was even answered.  And then when it WAS answered, they wouldn't believe the response.  So maybe it wasn't reflexive.  Perhaps closed-minded.  There were some folks who refused to believe the grants were already in place no mater how many times they were told.

this comes from my personal experience of answering the question multiple times, with the same people then coming back and again asking "how are we going to pay for it."

it's hard from one archived thread to get a sense of how much disinformation and closed-mindedness shut down that project.  And 13 years later, the township still has athletic fields that are in terrible condition.


We have too much demand and too few fields. Turf or natural, the town is going to continue to have athletic fields in terrible condition until the town adopts a policy/procedure for controlling use of the fields.  Any plan for controlling field use has to recognize that our parks are a shared resource and not everyone wants to dedicate all of what little available green space we have to organized sports. Turfing over DeHart is not going to solve the problem.  We need to take a far more comprehensive approach to green space utilization.


When turfing is discussed, what rules out Memorial?


DaveSchmidt said:

When turfing is discussed, what rules out Memorial?

For starters, DeHart has lights, and can be used at night (more hours), which likely improves the ROI for turf.

Memorial does not have lights... and may get local neighbors objecting to adding them.

DeHart has a flat and well defined fenced-in field. 

Memorial has a lot of hills, and no fencing delineation between 'park' and 'field'.


My kid plays hockey, so I have no horse in the race as far as that goes, but my question is how many different sports can use a turf field?  Will it be used nearly year round?  


DaveSchmidt said:

When turfing is discussed, what rules out Memorial?

 The most significant reason is that Memorial Park is designated as an historic site.  Artificial turf did not exist when the park was created.


FilmCarp said:

My kid plays hockey, so I have no horse in the race as far as that goes, but my question is how many different sports can use a turf field?  Will it be used nearly year round?  

The Millburn HS turf field seems to be used year round. I've seen pickup football, soccer, and Ultimate using it on weekends in the winter when the regular high school teams are not.  Field hockey and Lacrosse also use turf. 


joan_crystal said:

We have too much demand and too few fields. Turf or natural, the town is going to continue to have athletic fields in terrible condition until the town adopts a policy/procedure for controlling use of the fields.  Any plan for controlling field use has to recognize that our parks are a shared resource and not everyone wants to dedicate all of what little available green space we have to organized sports. Turfing over DeHart is not going to solve the problem.  We need to take a far more comprehensive approach to green space utilization.

This is a perfect encapsulation. Turfing over DeHart allows us to get more use out of two existing fields, relieving the burden slightly, but doesn't add any fields to a situation where certain teams in town already play "home" games elsewhere.

No one likes to say it this bluntly, but given the other choices (significant planning and investment for turf fields, even more planning and investment for suitable grass fields), the choice we've made is to go with too few, lousy, and often unusable, fields. 


At the risk of getting in the trenches again (it's so dirty there). 

It was never just about money or "reflexively voting no" ( Oh my, how dismissive of well reasoned arguments that carried the day in a previous town-wide referendum). It was a stupid idea then, it is still a stupid idea. 

I still have to darkly laugh when I think of the kid at the town hall meeting stating that "It's no fun getting dusty". Say what now?


steel said:

At the risk of getting in the trenches again (it's so dirty there). 

It was never just about money or "reflexively voting no" ( Oh my, how dismissive of well reasoned arguments that carried the day in a previous town-wide referendum). It was a stupid idea then, it is still a stupid idea. 

I still have to darkly laugh when I think of the kid at the town hall meeting stating that "It's no fun getting dusty". Say what now?

 Who said it was ONLY about money? But it was about money to the people who kept asking "how are we going to pay for it?" 

In a referendum that failed 47-53, those folks were almost certainly enough to tip the scale. 

There were good faith arguments both for and against the idea. But at least a few misinformed arguments on the anti side. 

And calling the turf proposal "stupid" isn't dismissive? oh oh


Two random, I don't have a dog in the fight, questions:

1. How come South Orange is never part of this conversation? Meaning that most (all?) youth sports programs include kids from BOTH towns. 

2. Maplecrest Park. Fields 1 & 2 should be considered. I know the issue of lights will come up, but I think it's worth a conversation. (Full disclosure: I live just a short jog from Maplecrest)

If this moves forward, I'd like to suggest marketing "This Is My 2nd Turf War" tee shirts for us oldtimers to help defray the costs!


I wonder if Maplewood will be covering all the same turf regarding arguments either for or against as enough time has now gone by for a whole new crop of parents to have taken up residence. 


ml1 said:

Formerlyjerseyjack said:

Who gonna pay for this ****?

 last time around there were state and county grants lined to pay for it.  But of course just asking the question led a lot of people to reflexively vote no.  So we'll see what happens this time.

There were some grants lined up but the town also needed to float some bonds to pay for the balance.  I can't remember the totals but the bonds were 7 figures.


steel said:

I wonder if Maplewood will be covering all the same turf regarding arguments either for or against as enough time has now gone by for a whole new crop of parents to have taken up residence.

A decade-plus seems like enough time for parts of almost any argument to change. In this case, I can see turf technology, sports popularity/demand and costs as some things that may be different now.


chalmers said:

joan_crystal said:

We have too much demand and too few fields. Turf or natural, the town is going to continue to have athletic fields in terrible condition until the town adopts a policy/procedure for controlling use of the fields.  Any plan for controlling field use has to recognize that our parks are a shared resource and not everyone wants to dedicate all of what little available green space we have to organized sports. Turfing over DeHart is not going to solve the problem.  We need to take a far more comprehensive approach to green space utilization.

This is a perfect encapsulation. Turfing over DeHart allows us to get more use out of two existing fields, relieving the burden slightly, but doesn't add any fields to a situation where certain teams in town already play "home" games elsewhere.

No one likes to say it this bluntly, but given the other choices (significant planning and investment for turf fields, even more planning and investment for suitable grass fields), the choice we've made is to go with too few, lousy, and often unusable, fields. 

I agree that the Town needs an overall open/green space plan.  The Open Space Trust Fund was created a decade ago but I can't think of a single  new open space that was acquired or created by that fund. It has been used primarily for maintenance and upgrade projects to existing parks, which was not the original purpose of the fund.


Soul_29 said:

Two random, I don't have a dog in the fight, questions:

1. How come South Orange is never part of this conversation? Meaning that most (all?) youth sports programs include kids from BOTH towns. 

2. Maplecrest Park. Fields 1 & 2 should be considered. I know the issue of lights will come up, but I think it's worth a conversation. (Full disclosure: I live just a short jog from Maplecrest)

If this moves forward, I'd like to suggest marketing "This Is My 2nd Turf War" tee shirts for us oldtimers to help defray the costs!

 At least one field mentioned during public comment, and the one speakers agreed is in the worst condition, is maintained by South Orange under a long term lease agreement.  Thus, whether everyone realizes it or not, South Orange has become part of the conversation.  


In case you missed it - great feedback at Tuesday night's TC meeting:

Public comment starts at around 23:40

Nancy Adams had some good feedback at 4:12:51

I'm not entirely clear as to what the $140,000 consultancy cost was for.


joan_crystal said:

We have too much demand and too few fields. Turf or natural, the town is going to continue to have athletic fields in terrible condition until the town adopts a policy/procedure for controlling use of the fields.  Any plan for controlling field use has to recognize that our parks are a shared resource and not everyone wants to dedicate all of what little available green space we have to organized sports. Turfing over DeHart is not going to solve the problem.  We need to take a far more comprehensive approach to green space utilization.

Bingo. Joan, you nailed it. As someone who plays and has coached for over a decade on the fields, I know they are in terrible shape and can't handle the demand for organized sports field time that has grown over the last few decades. The work that was done at DeHart after the artificial turf field was voted down was a disaster, with the drainage leaving the field a soaking (and sometimes smelly/swampy) mess days after a rain. But what I think Joan has put her finger on here is that even with an artificial turf field, our other grass fields are STILL going to be a mess. Many people who are opposed to the artificial turf fields are concerned about health issues, and even injuries, but I have (and know plenty of other people who have) sustained significant injuries playing on our overused grass fields. I actually really love playing on artificial turf, so I'm not sure I'm swayed by that argument.

My first big question has to do with who will get access to the new, "best" field in town, and how can that be done equitably? When Profeta field was installed, I tried for a number of years to get access to it for a town-run program where anyone who fit the age group could play/join. I was essentially told no, was told if I wanted to even consider it, I had to get insurance in an amount I couldn't even find an insurance company willing to give a quote for (because it was so high), and just ran into walls every time I tried. Not too long after that, I learned that one of the long-standing but private club teams had regular access to Profeta field, at a much lower insurance requirement. Not exactly equitable. Felt very old boys club to me.

So if this field goes into DeHart, or anywhere, who has access? Do the teams that are now playing "home" games away come back, not really lessening the pressure on the grass fields? Do private clubs (at least one of which I believe supports artificial turf at DeHart strongly) get more access than Rec programs that serve the whole town? And what about the CHS teams? Many of these teams regularly use town fields because of the lack of fields at the HS, and the closing of Ritzer field for maintenance exacerbates this. Putting in turf at Ritzer is in the facilities upgrade plans, but was put off for this year (I think). Would waiting until that field is turned into artificial turf help determine if we need another in town?

Another big concern that I have, and that I have read a lot about in other forums where younger, newer families tend to talk, is that DeHart really serves as the only green space in a neighborhood that has fewer trees, lawns, other green spaces. Taking away this green space and filling it with plastic doesn't seem right to me at all. I do think there may be other places in town where an artificial turf may make more sense. (I didn't watch the TC meeting, but wondering if the field Joan referred to is Chyzowych? Like Soul_29, I also live near Maplecrest and wouldn't mind if artificial turf was installed there.)  

I get that the lights extend playing time and adding them to a field somewhere else in town will just raise the cost, but it just doesn't seem right to turf over DeHart without figuring out how to create another green space the same size by expanding the park or adding new green space somewhere else in the neighborhood. (I have no idea if this is feasible both in terms of available land and costs (ha, we can't really afford this artificial turf field anyway as we are bonding for it), but it would seem more equitable to me).

And back to another one of Joan's points - though I am an active participant in organized spots, they are not the only way to be outside and have fun/get exercise. Maybe it's a cultural change we need to think about. Maybe it's okay if our games get rained out and we have to cancel. I'm sure most people don't share this view, and I have heard plenty of grown men complain about the idea of missing just one week due to weather. But our lack of open field space is unlikely to change, and if we ARE going to put in artificial turf, I'd sure like to hear some analysis done before committing to it that lays out usage at ALL the fields and how the time will be allocated to all existing programs, time for new programs, and time left unscheduled for those who want to use the field to, oh, you know, fly a kite or watch the clouds go by.


The article to which I have posted a link below is informative.  The first sentence is my favorite part.

In any case, our two towns need some turf soccer/football fields - Ritzer, Dehart, Chyzowych and Waterlands to support the playing demands.  We aren't likely to find the open space to have enough grass fields to support the playing demands.  From a technical point of view, this really isn't complicated.  But were not really having a technical discussion.

"One of the sagest pieces of advice I ever received is: “Beware technical solutions to political problems and political solutions to technical problems.”"

http://www.themunicipal.com/2014/10/field-use-capacity-how-much-play-is-too-much-play/


"and time left unscheduled for those who want to use the field to, oh, you know, fly a kite or watch the clouds go by."

Does anybody still do this.  I walk in the Reservation a lot.  After all these years since earbuds became popular, I continued to be astounded at the number of people walking with earbuds in listening to music or talking on the phone totally shutting out nature.


@SZM   I completely agree with your above post.  The one point I would add is that all of our playing fields were placed by design in areas prone to flooding. This has exacerbated the drainage issues at DeHart, Maplecrest, and Memorial parks.  

Chyzowych (yes, that is the field I was referring to) may be physically located in Maplewood but it is leased to South Orange, which maintains it.  There is a reason why Chyzowych was  named  New Waterlands when my son was playing sports on it over 30 year years ago. It was aptly named since that park is prone to flooding.  The other field @tjohn mentions is Waterlands, located in and maintained by South Orange.  Again, as the name implies prone to flooding.

Any discussion of putting down artificial turf at Waterlands or New Waterlands (now called Chyzowych) would need to involve South Orange.  To the best of my knowledge they have not been part of the discussion regarding putting down artificial turf at DeHart Park.

Regarding the issue @SZM raises of apportioning playing time at DeHart Park, to the best of my recollection (someone please correct me if I am wrong), that facility was created using green space funds.  This would preclude restricting use of the fields there. 


Informative post, SZM. Thank you. And thanks, jamie, for the video and time cues.



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