The November 2015 ballot referendum on a plan to refurbish and upgrade Middletown parks was controversial because of the issue of synthetic turf playing fields. The original plan called for construction of 9 synthetic turf fields, but synthetic turf was removed from the bond language, limiting the borrowing authorization to cover natural grass fields only. (See earlier posts on the series of meetings that led to this decision.) The Jonah Center and Ecoin (the Environmental Collective Impact Network) opposed synturf for reasons of human health and safety, environmental protection, aesthetics, children’s alienation from the natural world, public access, and financial risks.
Now the challenge is to insure that the City commits itself to maintaining natural grass fields properly, using organic methods such as those that Branford has successfully employed. During the Common Council debates, both sides recognized that the natural grass fields that currently exist have not been adequately maintained. Adding natural grass fields to City parks will make field maintenance even more important, requiring annual budget support. (Note: Synthetic turf fields would have required expensive maintenance and disposal too, but these costs were not addressed by the synturf proponents.)
In early 2016, Mayor Drew is expected to establish a “Building Committee” to oversee the authorized park improvements and related expenditures. The synturf vs. natural grass field controversy should not be an issue for this committee and the projects included in the parks improvement bond ordinance, but the issue continues to be a hot one for communities and schools around the nation.