Letters to the Editor: 10/6/16

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To the Editor,

Sag Harbor is a small village, with limited resources, school budgets, schoolyards, and staff. We also have limited water resources, and we are very concerned about pollutants and chemicals entering our environment.

In 2013, an artificial turf field was voted on and approved: Over half of our citizens voted, and15% more of us wanted an artificial turf field. That is a massive percentage! But still, a few misguided people are fighting its installation, using scare tactics, unfounded concerns, lies from environmental groups, false claims about artificial turf, and our love of tradition, but on every level, they are wrong.

An artificial turf field behind Pierson is the only viable solution to this district’s needs, and doesn’t have the risks they are talking about.

A natural turf field will only be available to two teams at Pierson, both in the fall, and NO ONE ELSE THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE YEAR! It will be fenced off from the rest of the community forever, but it will cost over $1 million, or $500 for each resident, over the next 10 years.

Why is this field so important to us?

  • The field behind Pierson is only big enough for one soccer field, and some odds and ends around its perimeter, some of which is already paved over.
  • Throughout the year, for recess, and after school, some of the students go outside to play. They play baseball, kickball, soccer, football, have Frisbee catches, etc..
    • Every child takes physical education classes
    • Most of them are also in club, intramural or interscholastic sports.
    • The community wants to use the field as well, for many activities

In the three years since the overwhelming approval by our voters, the Board has shuffled its feet on installing the field, and is now trying to weasel out of its responsibility, instead trying to use the funds to fix up the field we have. This directly violates the express will of the voters. The turf should have been done two years ago.

That being said, the 3-year wait worked out in one way: There are now totally safe, organic and acrylic infill crumbs that are completely non-toxic, and do not leak any chemicals into the environment.

Ecologically and environmentally, artificial turf is unquestionably the better option:

  • A natural field requires thousands of pounds of fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide every year.
  • These chemicals are “organic”, but are still poisonous and dangerous, contain urea, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and they will get into the ground water and in the air we breathe.
  • We will have to use fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide for all the fields in the district, so even our elementary school kids will be breathing it and coming into contact with it.
  • The turf will have to be mowed weekly, which will create air and noise pollution.
  • Natural turf requires up to ONE MILLION gallons of water a year: SCWA is concerned about that number, and we should be too!
  • We are now learning that no pesticide or herbicide is allowed on school grounds, so we’ll never win the fight against weeds and deer ticks.

Logistically and monetarily, artificial turf is the only option:

  • Natural turf will ONLY be used by two teams (60 kids) in the whole district.
    • Everyone can play all sports on artificial turf, about 300 days a year.
  • With a natural turf field, we’ll have no baseball or softball fields, and no lacrosse.
    • The artificial field will have permanent softball and hardball diamonds.
  • Artificial turf protects against injuries better than natural turf, especially after bad weather.
  • Artificial turf can be used 100 more days a year.
  • The district can raise revenue by renting out the field to soccer camps, especially during the summer.
  • Natural turf will cost us about $100,000 a year for the chemicals, the water, and the groundskeeping staff we’ll need.
    • $1 million, $500 each resident, over ten years, just for maintenance of the grass.
    • This $100,000 a year will come out of our operating budget
    • The Board may be stuck with a choice between a groundskeeper for the field, or a teacher, if the budget gets tight.

Alternate ideas, like using the elementary school field for practices and phys. ed. classes, and greater use of Mashashimuet park, have been discussed, but these are not viable solutions. We still need a field for recess, casual play, and phys. ed.: It also increases the odds of students getting hit by cars while crossing to the elementary school, takes that field away from the elementary kids, and it still doesn’t address the 50 days a year we would lose from bad weather.  Where will a high school athlete go if they have to go to the bathroom? What if a kid gets injured, and the nurse has to come all the way from Pierson? It’s totally impractical.

One last thing: The most important people in this discussion have not even been given a voice in it.

  • ALL the student athletes want artificial turf.
  • ALL the phys. ed. and athletics staff want artificial turf.
  • ALL the students want to get out more and play.

We are a small town, with limited money, limited backyard space, limited time, and limited teachers. We can’t afford the luxury of a natural field behind Pierson.

We need to install artificial turf at Pierson, as soon as possible.

Greg Burton

North Haven

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