Keep Mt. Lebanon’s field turf natural

Published Jun 18, 2014 at 6:34 am (Updated Jun 17, 2014 at 11:04 am)

I n November 2013, Mt. Lebanon commissioners approved a conceptual plan for the natural grass turf on Mt. Lebanon Park’s Middle and Wildcat fields to be replaced with artificial turf. The price tag is estimated at a cool $1 million, $750,000 of which would come from the municipality’s unassigned fund balance and the remaining $250,000 to be raised from private donations – ergo, this project should not result in a tax increase.

For months, a literal turf war has been going on in Mt. Lebanon, with those who oppose the project mainly concerned about safety. A recent meeting featured turf experts who were on hand to educate the public and answer their questions – questions that were not permitted to be asked vocally, rather, that were written on cards for the experts to address at the end of the meeting.

Chemicals in the crumb rubber turf – including alcohols, acids, ketones, esters, lactones and sulfur, to name a few – are one concern, while potential injuries from the harder surface are another.

The environmental impact is yet another issue that residents have been worried about from the time that the project was announced – they are concerned about the potential for flooding due to the removal of natural soil, and pollution from that runoff ending up in local streams. In early May, Dr. Tracy Bank, a geologist, told Mt. Lebanon commissioners that artificial turf cannot match environmental benefits of natural grass. “(Turf manufacturers) are basically strip mining the ground,” she said.

Truly, Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Kelly Fraasch, the lone commissioner opposed to the project, hit the nail on the head when she said that “Artificial turf is an issue that’s evolving, with potential health concerns for children, pregnant mothers and adults. We can’t look back at years of use and say it’s safe because everyone is using it. There are numerous examples of items we thought were safe and clearly aren’t today.

To rip up perfectly usable natural fields and replace grass with artificial turf is just another example of the current trend of local communities wanting to “keep up with the Joneses.” It’s frivolous, unnecessary spending, even though those who are for the project site increasing the fields’ usability by 60 percent, because it will remain playable for longer seasons.

For years, sports have been played on natural grass fields. Leave paradise alone, and don’t pave a proverbial parking lot.

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