By Patrick Noonan
Am I the only person in Woodside who cares that soon two of our beautiful natural turf playing fields at the elementary school will be dug up and replaced with approximately 75,000 square feet of rubber and plastic several inches deep?
It’s artificial turf. Birds don’t like to land on it. There are no bees on it. There are no clover or dandelions on it. There is never the smell of fresh-cut grass. No white clover blossoms. There are no worms under it. Ladybugs who land on it don’t last long.
On the surface there are loose particles of rubber and silica sand, which hold up the plastic blades of grass. I wonder what will happen if some of the little creatures that live in our schoolyard eat the rubber. What if a first-grader drops a sandwich or an apple on the artificial turf and rubber particles stick to it? Will they be harmed if they accidentally eat it? What if a toddler watching a soccer game or on a weekend picnic picks up a handful of the loose rubber pellets from the top of the turf?
We are stealing something from the children. We are stealing the unique and wonderful experience of playing sports on natural turf. As adults we all have that memory and cherish it. I don’t understand why we would deny it to our children.
I console myself by saying that the children will still have the sky. We can’t take the sky away from them. But it’s not the top of the sky I’m worried about. It’s the top six feet of sky above the artificial turf. Plastic and rubber smell. And that smell is tiny particles.
On a hot day when the children are playing their hearts out and breathing as hard as they can, are they breathing something that may hurt them someday? How does the material age? What happens to it when it begins to break down?
The clue to the nature of artificial turf is that birds don’t like it. There’s nothing to eat there. It smells funny. So if birds don’t like it, why are we putting our treasure, our children, and in my case, grandchildren, on it?
You know if I saw animals on it in a zoo, I would feel sorry for them and complain to the zookeeper that it is cruel to separate living beings from the natural world.
Maybe if someone besides me contacts the school board and complains a little, the decision to renovate with artificial turf instead of natural turf may not be set in concrete.
Sooner or later we’re going to get fed up with the rubber and plastic fields, or some one will discover that maybe it’s harmful to our children. Then we’ll dig the stuff up, haul it off to the recycler and renovate with natural turf. Why not do it now before we pay for it?
The Woodside Elementary School board’s Web site is Web Link
-- Patrick Noonan, Glenwood Avenue, Woodside
<I>This letter was published in the May 16, 2007, print edition of the Almanac.</I>