YES/NO Turf, Dehart Park Debate

Saturday, November 8, 2008 Dehart Park Maplewood Vote RESOLUTION: On November 4th registered voters voted against artificial turf in Dehart Park.

8 days to go. The YES/NO to artificial Turf debate is on the front burner for registered voters in Maplewood. November 4th is fast approaching and residents will be voting at that time on Yes/No artificial turf in Dehart Park. A walk through our township, with attention paid to the signs on resident’s lawns, will reveal that a feud is brewing just below the surface in our community. ‘NO Turf’ signs say Vote No November 4th, while on the opposite side of the debate signs urge voting for the measure.

My Campaign to Clean up the Lightning Brook districtt includes Dehart Park.

No Artificial Turf Debate

According to, adopting the measure for turf at Dehart Park isn’t the solution for the Recreation Department’s problems. This initiative, according to the website, would involve park maintenance, landscaping, playground repair/improvements, building upkeep, bathrooms, lighting, and security. “While artificial turf would dedicate one-third of this fund for the next 15 years to debt service, we believe these monies could be more fairly distributed across improvements that affect a wider cross section of Maplewood residents.”

Other arguments include:

  • by making a commitment to improving our natural grass fields, we are serving the needs of organized sports community without compromising the rest
  • the field will need to be replaced in 10 years at a cost of $1 million dollars
  • replacing the field is not included in the current bond proposal
  • health of the community is at stake by replacing natural resources with plastic

Regarding health concerns, the citizen group asks, “Should we move forth based on the urgency of the sporting community’s needs, bonding millions for a product that has not been tested?” They cite a 2008 move by the City of New York to “remove 30 million tons of crumb rubber that has been installed in 130 fields because of its toxicity, which will cost millions,” and also touch on two cases in New Jersey where excessive levels of lead were found in turf in the infield and in the grass filament. Finally, the group states that artificial turf fails to break down bacteria. [Select this link to go to their site for this information.]

Yes Artificial Turf Debate

11/3/2008 Update The website for the Yes Artificial Turf Debate is  The supporters state that upgrading Dehart Park will serve the entire township, and that “Over $1.1 Million in Outstanding Funding Is at Risk” if this measure fails.  It cites that the Township Committe voted 5-0 in favor for this.  The site goes on to say:

  • Dehart was intended to be the premier athletic field in Maplewood.
  • The park is overused and in a state of disrepair.
  • A recent electrical fire hints of potential hazards in using the site.
  • Amount of open space in community makes  maintenance difficult.
  • Students play in fields meant to have grass, but instead are dust, mud, or dirt.
  • Fields are subject to 1,200 hrs per use, as opposed to the 400-600 hours of use natural turf can withstand. As a result, the township might at some point begin limiting use of the park to community groups.

With consideration to health concerns, artificial turf is safe, supporters maintain, designated so by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Supporters also discuss the environmentally friendly aspect of this proposal, stating that the project would result in the funding of 2,000 trees, and that the turf itself would be made of recycled materials, would not require watering (equivilant to proving water to 428 single family homes).  The turf would also eliminate the use of herbacides, pesticides and fertilizers.  Finally, the groups states that Dehart Park improvement means: a safer park for all users, new leisure park space, new jogging path, new picnic areas, new park lighting, new sports lighting, and a new multi turf field (that contains no lead).

I couldn’t find literature or a website for this group. Any Maplewood resident with any information regarding this position please leave comments.

Case Study: The Campaign to Renovate Underhill Field

Columbia High School Alumni Association’s ‘Get in the Game‘ The Campaign for Underhill Donations

A project like the one proposed for Dehart Park has already been undertaken in the South Orange-Maplewood community. Underhill Field is utilized by Columbia H S students for sports related activities, including Track & Field & Football. According to the literature put out by the campaign, “Underhill is Columbia High School’s recreation complex located on Burr Road in Maplewood. Facilities include a running track and field event areas, football field with grandstands, varsity and JV baseball fields, 2 field houses, a concession stand, and limited parking.” I ran track at Columbia and practiced in Underhill Field, in fact.

The Columbia HS Alumni Association implemented a community wide fundraising effort to redevelop the sports facilities of Underhill Field and Ritzer Fields. Select this link for Columbia High School Alumni Association’s own case study on the issue. According to their campaign literature, their reasons for pushing this initiative were:

  • The new track and artificial turf field will turn a source of embarrassment into a source of pride for our students and community.
  • The field is used constantly by high school and youth athletic programs, leaving no downtime for proper maintenance and restoration of the natural grass.
  • The field is in very poor condition with rampant divots and large patches of bare ground.
  • Artificial turf results in less weather related down-time and lower maintenance costs.
  • The track is in such disrepair that no home meets were scheduled during the 2006-2007 school year.
  • The new track will reflect the championship level track and field programs at Columbia High School.
  • The baseball fields will improve because football practice will be held on the new turf field, not the baseball outfield!
  • Night lighting will improve programming capacity for a community with limited quality athletic facilities.

This project was completed. Community Partners were: Columbia High School Alumni Association, South-Orange Maplewood School District, Seton Hall University, South Orange-Maplewood Education Foundation, Joetta Clark Diggs Sports Foundation, Maplewood-South Orange Packers Football, Maplewood in Motion, Cougar Soccer Club, Maplewood Lacrosse Club, Kings Supermarkets, YouthNet, Inc.

Pictures of Underhill Field can be found below.

One question i have is, regarding the Yes to Artificial Turf and the assertion that it would not require watering equivalent to proving water to 428 single family homes, is this yearly? Applicable to Maplewood or a general statistic?

© 2010 W. S. Hughes


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