Protect the park: Yes on H

On a recent gorgeous October day, hawks played in the air above the Beach Chalet soccer fields. To the south, the blades of the Murphy Windmill were at rest. In the north, the Marin Headlands peeked above the tree line.

On many days, the happy bustle of soccer players share the beauty — but on real grass, not the tire-crumb turf that the Recreation and Parks Commission, in cahoots with the Fisher brothers of the Gap and tire-crumb turf industry, are trying to force onto the fields.

The list of reasons to oppose this project is long and alarming.

Is the tire-crumb turf safe to play on? The link has not yet been firmly established, but a major news network has exposed a long list of young goalies who have played on tire-crumb turf and then contracted lymphoma or leukemia.

Is tire-crumb turf environmentally superior to real grass? Proponents argue that it costs less to maintain and uses less water. Yet many of the city's artificial-turf fields are already crumbling, and The City's own records show that the artificial turf at the Beach Chalet will use more water than it saves and even deprive the underlying aquifer of clean rainwater.

Communities across the nation are either voting against artificial turf or experiencing buyer's remorse after permitting it. If 7 acres of synthetic turf fails in Golden Gate Park, what is the backup plan, and how much will it cost San Franciscans to replace all the artificial-turf fields throughout The City?

And what about the crumb itself, the tiny black balls of rubber that percolate up through the blades of plastic grass? That crumb then disperses into the surrounding landscape. It kills aquatic life and likely ends up in the stomachs of birds and dogs. It certainly ends up in the clothes and homes of soccer players. The toxins that were injected into the rubber from which the crumb is made also seep into ground water. Why do the proponents of tire-crumb turf ignore this obvious source of contamination?

For those of you still undecided, have you seen the nightlights at the South Sunset Fields on Wawona? Now imagine three times the brightness of those lights surrounding 7 acres of fields at the western end of Golden Gate Park, right next to Ocean Beach.

And then there's the odor. Have you caught a whiff of the aroma lifting off the new Mission, Kimball or Minnie and Lovie Ward playgrounds? On hot days — and with global warming, San Francisco is getting more and more of those — imagine multiplying that odor by 7 acres.

Even if an environmentally benign turf were substituted, the whole project violates the Golden Gate Park master plan. That document emphasizes maintaining the western end of the park as more naturalistic than the eastern end — and it even uses the terms “pastoral” and “sylvan.” The 60-plus species of birds recorded at the Beach Chalet fields, and other wildlife, will lose their homes if the installations go forward as planned.

Proposition I, on Tuesday's ballot, is even more alarming. It has a poison-pill clause that will nullify Proposition H if both pass. And moreover, Prop. I seeks to restrict citizen input in Rec and Park projects.

Please join more than 60 organizations including the Sierra Club, the Latino American Democratic Club, the Richmond District Democratic Club, the San Francisco Green Party, and the San Francisco Republican Party in voting yes on H and no on I.

Susan Vaughan is the chairwoman of the San Francisco Group of the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay Chapter.

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