Synthetic sod still stirring dust at city's soccer fields

Installing synthetic turf at the most popular soccer fields in The City could more than triple the amount of time they could be utilized, but the proposal has detractors who worry about safety and the effects of the increased use.

There are four soccer fields adjacent to the Beach Chalet in Golden Gate Park, but the 4,738 hours that they are used each year necessitate that one must be closed at any given time for watering and to allow the grass to grow back, according to the Recreation and Park Department.

To increase the amount of time the fields could be open for sports, the Recreation and Park Department is proposing installing artificial turf and upgrading the lighting system. The fixes would boost the time the fields are available from 4,738 to 14,320 hours a year, Rec and Park spokeswoman Lisa Seitz Gruwell said.

The proposal for the soccer fields is part of a larger $50 million project that is revamping six playing fields in The City. The fixes for the half-dozen locations will allow the department to increase service equal to building 27 baseball and 33 soccer fields, Seitz Gruwell said.

But the increased play time does not outweigh health risks that artificial turf present, said Richmond resident and longtime soccer player Kelley Watts.

“It’s kind of a red herring,” Watts said. “The key to me is that kids are playing in tiny bits of tire waste that bounces up in their face, and it’s ingested.”

The issue of health due to the fake grass, which is made from recycled tire rubber, has been raised by local and state officials.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi has authored a nonbinding resolution that proposes a moratorium on using synthetic turf until the state releases a report about possible health issues related to the material. The state report is due out in September 2010.

The Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance, a group of citizens concerned about the future of the park, has decided not to take a stance on whether turf is beneficial or harmful, but does have worries of its own.

“We’re developing the park so that everything has to be intensively used,” said alliance member Katherine Howard. “Will there be a large number of cars? Will there be more amplified sound? How will that affect wildlife? How intrusive will this complex be?”

The Recreation and Park Department is presenting the idea of synthetic turf at the Beach Chalet at a community meeting Wednesday. The Recreation and Park Commission could decide on the renovation by January.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com

 

Grass greener on other side?

City Fields Foundation, the Recreation and Park Department and a Clean and Safe Neighborhood Bond have paid for a $50 million project to increase playtime in The City. As a result, six recreational fields at the following playgrounds have been or are in the process of being renovated and converted to synthetic turf.

Crocker Amazon
Franklin Square
South Sunset
Silver Terrace
Kimbell*
Mission*
Beach Chalet*

*Has not yet been converted

Source: Recreation and Park Department

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