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Editorial: Opposed to Artificial Turf Field

(The following letter was sent to Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto in relation to the Artificial Turf Field Proposal and is being printed here with the writer’s permission.)

I am in opposition to the proposed artificial turf athletic field in Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.

The park deed states that T.R. Memorial Park should be a place of natural beauty for rest and passive recreation. T.R. Memorial Park is historic in nature and holds a certain character and ambiance that are in character with the Historic Hamlet of Oyster Bay. T.R. Memorial Park is a waterfront park. In the Hamlet Plan under waterfront goals it states: “Maintain community character, protect water quality, habitat and marine life, maintain aesthetic economic and recreational value of the bay: encourage environmentally sensitive development which is compatible with waterfront features and maritime history.”

There are 140 boaters and there will be a loss of 110 parking spaces at the launch ramps. We are potentially inviting people to park in the launch area. This can be dangerous in an area where people are towing boats and parents are bringing children to the site. These fields will be open for travel teams in the summer as well. This is not an appropriate use of waterfront land. Appropriate use of this land is for beaches, fishing and maritime launch ramps. We should not diminish this use as the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Youth Athletic Association is asking us to relinquish the facilities we use. Putting an artificial turf field at T.R. Memorial Park is not in line with the goals and objectives of the Hamlet Plan. I am not against children or what OBENYAA wants to accomplish; however, I am in opposition to the artificial turf and its location in Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park. Other sites such as the 5-acres of the former Hallock property with natural grass fields should be considered. A better resolution for both the children and a local community church would be to use St. Dominic’s already established natural turf fields. This is safer and healthier for the children.

We should also consider the impact of the potential cumulative future build-out development in the hamlet. The development of the Eastern Waterfront, the Oyster Bay Railroad Museum and the possible potential of the T.R. Museum coming back into this area. Can we afford to lose parking as the downtown develops and grows?

Another issue is the relocation of the Oyster Festival. The present location is a cohesive area for the crafts and food courts and close to the downtown and rides. Thirty-six nonprofits depend on this event and many cannot survive without the festival. They are also all putting money back into the hamlet.

Millions of dollars of SEA Fund bond money has been spent on artificial turf field because “they are the fields of choice.” EHHI (Environmental & Human Health Inc.) dedicated to protecting human health from environmental harms through research and promotion of sound public policy states: “There is enough information now concerning the potential health effects from the chemicals in the rubber crumbs to place a moratorium on installing any new fields or playgrounds that use ground-up rubber tires until additional research is undertaken.”

On Sept. 17, 2009 The San Francisco Examiner reported that Supervisor Ross Mirkarimis called for an immediate stoppage of the Parks and Recreation Department’s plan to install synthetic turf on playing fields. The resolution was introduced in August. The said health risks associated with the turf have yet to be adequately studied and health concerns persist. The resolution says “There are several scientific studies pointing out toxic substances including heavy metals and volatile airborne corrosives associated with these synthetic turfs, the ingestion of only 10 grams of which is considered seriously, irrevocably carcinogenic.”

Did you know that:

• Ground rubber tires are used in some artificial fields, yet because of their toxic content are prohibited from being disposed of in landfills or ocean dumping.

• Natural turf grass saves energy. A Canadian West Coast turf organization indicated, “The front lawns of eight houses have the cooling effect of about 70 tons of air conditioning. That’s amazing when the average home has an air conditioner with just 3 ton to 4 ton capacity.”

• Natural turf lessens global warming by absorbing and sequestering carbon dioxide greenhouse gases.

• What about artificial turf’s carbon footprint? The tree planting offset requirements to achieve a 10-year carbon neutral synthetic installation for one field was estimated at 1,861 trees. A total of 1,861 trees need to be planted for every artificial turf field installed.

• Light pollution - According to the proposed plan, four 70-foot to 80-foot tall light fixtures will be placed around the field in addition to the current lighting fixtures around the baseball field. These floodlights have the potential of being lit till 10:30 p.m.

Light Pollution

• The National Audubon Society has sounded the alarm that thousands of birds die every year during migration because light pollution distracts birds from the visual cues they receive from the stars and the moon. Many species of nocturnal animals are especially vulnerable to the effects of light pollution. The National Audubon Society and the American Bird Conservancy have identified over 500 important bird areas (IBAs) in the nation. IBAs are significant places for the conservation of birds. Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park is designated as an IBA.

• The International Dark Sky Association in Arizona “estimates that $4.5 billion per year in the U.S. is wasted by excessive lighting, which consumes 6 million tons of coal and 23 million barrels of oil per year. In essence, light pollution contributes to air pollution. Every kilowatt spent causes the release of 1.2 pounds of carbon dioxide, 2 grams of sulfur dioxide and 1.6 grams of nitric oxide. This adds up when one considers that our yearly output of 62 billion kWh (kilowatt hours) equals 40 million tons of carbon dioxide, 1.4 million tons of sulfur dioxide, and 1.1 million tons of nitric oxide.”

• Why would we consider placing an environmentally questionable project in the center of our watershed system that also feeds a National Wildlife Preserve? Even worse, channel the potentially toxic runoff from the field directly into the nearest recharge basin.

If we really care about the long-term health of our children and our environment we should deeply reconsider this proposal and think about the ramifications.