Menlo Park may help fund new Hillview field | Town Square | Almanac Online |

Town Square

Post a New Topic

Menlo Park may help fund new Hillview field

Original post made on Jan 25, 2010

With land for new playing fields scarce and demand showing no sign of slowing, Menlo Park may share the cost of a new synthetic field at the renovated Hillview Middle School, in exchange for use of the field. The City Council could authorize negotiations with the school district at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, January 24, 2010, 10:36 PM

Comments (14)

Like this comment
Posted by Why Poison Our Children
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:32 am

Do we really want to endanger our children by using artificial turf?
Watch this news cast.

CBS Channel 5 San Francisco May 2009
Dangers of Synthetic Turf, Artificial Fields, CBS 5 - California
Web Link

Also what about chemical off-gassing and heat impacts to neighboring homes and the tot park.

Like this comment
Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Gimmee a break! So you think the neighbors would rather have petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides sprayed multiple times a year?

Most of the angst over artificial turf is from the usual cast of neighbors grasping the NIMBY straw to prevent community use of our shared treasures: fields that provide exercise and other benefits to both children and adults alike!

Like this comment
Posted by concerned west menlo resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 25, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Fake grass is really bad because it requires just as much upkeep and chemicals, not too mention the heat. Definitely not ecological. Definitely not worth the $ for a fake lawn

Like this comment
Posted by Ben
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Artificial Turf is not the answer. I went to Hillview many years ago. They could keep the field green and playable then. There is no reason they can't also do that today. Artificial fields with their heat island effect, their lack of carbon sequestration and oxygen creation, and their carbon footprint to install (the equivalent of tearing out >1500 trees) make it pretty clear that they are NOT a "Green" product as some people would make them seem. Ask a LEED AP. They will tell you that artificial turf is terrible for the environment.

And then theres the issue of cost. $500,000 for a field is a huge cost and let me add this - that would be the cheapest artificial turf field ever and i think when MP does their research they'll find that a plastic field will cost them 2 - 2.5 times that.

-Hillview Hawk 4 Life

Like this comment
Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Nice try, folks. It IS cost effective, otherwise ALL the high schools will convert back to grass in the next couple years. Hear of any doing that?

Heat Island? Not as much as your internal combustion engine that you use to get you to the field you like to jog upon...

For your lawn as a replacement? Of course not, don't be silly. But for high capacity use as a community resource, all weather, etc..? Of course!

Look at the schools. Look at Red Morton.

It works. It's cost effective. It allows recreational use to be maximized. That's the criteria I prefer my city govt and public schools to use to make choices.

Green? not as green as an *organic* grass playing field. How many of those are around, and can support even moderate capacity use?

Yeah, thought so....

Like this comment
Posted by Pesticide Free
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Get a life Willy, it's easy for you to throw out the NIMBY catch-all when you don't even live in Menlo or have a student at the school. Not everyone who has a concern is a Nimby.
The proper real lawn can be kept up at much lower cost using the right type of grass and using non-petroleum based environmentally safe products to fertilize and control weeds and grass eating bugs.

Like this comment
Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 25, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Ahhh, so I'm wrong 'cuz I don't live near?

If it so clear, why does turf go in every time a study is done?

And we haven't even addressed how turf is FAR superior for the kids and adults as a playing surface. Ask any coach or official which surface is better for knees, hips, backs, etc.. Soft, durable, consistent (no uneven surfaces, holes, etc...)

No student there, true, but my kids have played on a lot of these fields in the area.

And you folks keep thinking there is some miracle "enviromentally safe" cheap way to maintain a high capacity grass field? So the professionals don't know how to do it, but you do?

Mr Pesticide Free: Which MP field is a high capacity, pesticide free field?

Like this comment
Posted by E. Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Hello "Ben". How many years ago was your Hillview School experience?

My property borders the Hillview field and we like hearing the happy sounds of children playing there. It's green (and quite soggy) right now because of all the rain, but visit in the summer and fall when the desert environment returns. Your claim that "there is no reason they can't also do that today", just doesn't match reality.

The bumps, holes, rocks and protruding sprinkler heads are far more dangerous to the kids playing there than the evils being listed against artificial turf. My experience with a-turf (raising 3 boys) has been it's much safer. Far fewer ankle and knee injuries.

And Ben..... have you missed the recent state and city discussions about water.? The Menlo Park City Council (based on some rather radical staff reports) says it might restrict our lawns in the future to 500 square feet. Try to recreate on that! I'm surprised the water wonks haven't been all over you in response. For your sake, I hope the Atherton City Council takes a less radical approach to water restriction

We have a lot of experience in the community over the grass vs. a-turf issues. If your child goes to Scared Heart, Menlo School or M-A High School they will all be prancing around on a-turf. The fields are all beautifully marked to accommodate multiple sports, and the players experience excellent playing conditions each time they compete.

Finally, I'd like to know the basis for the claim from "concerned west menlo resident" that grass and a-turf cost the same for on-going maintenance. The cost of labor for cutting, aerating, fertilizing and fixing sparklers on a large field is substantial. And it is continuous. I'll leave it to the accountants and economists to determine if the capital cost over the life of the investment (along with the value of increased and better use) will exceed a continuous maintenance cost during the life of the investment. But claims should be based on good facts.

Like this comment
Posted by Ben
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

First of all, Willy of Woodside, in response to your logic:

"Heat Island? Not as much as your internal combustion engine that you use to get you to the field you like to jog upon..."

A natural gas field will actually scrub the greenhouse gasses and CO2 coming from the exhaust of your internal combustion engine and convert it into Oxygen. And also, we don't play summer soccer games on the hoods of cars, so to compare the heat of a car to that of a soccer field is incorrect.

Water usage is a big deal. I work in the water conservation industry. Its water-WASTE that we must cut down on. Irrigating a sports field is not water-waste. Irrigating a tiny yard that you never use, or a turf median that you can't even get to, or leaving the water on while you brush your teeth are examples of water waste.

It is a huge myth that Synthetic Turf fields don't use water. They REQUIRE water. Anything that gets on the field (blood, dog urine, saliva, puke, beer) will stay there forever unless water is used to wash it off (and shampoo in some cases, have you ever seen them do this at MA, Menlo, or Woodside? No - because they don't but they're supposed to). Water is needed again to cool the field when it gets too hot in the summer. Synthetic Fields absorb and radiate heat - some studies have found temperatures as high at *160 on synthetic fields (!).

Also, can we not scoff at the cost!?!?! $500,000 dollars! That's enough to pay 10 teachers. Why does no body ever mention that?

Municipalities who are commited to their parks can keep their fields green. Menlo Park simply isn't commited to being one of them.

This is not a simple discussion. There are many bullet points for each side. I encourage you to check out if you'd like to learn more about the failure stories of synthetic turf around the country.

Like this comment
Posted by Sam Sinnott
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 25, 2010 at 5:17 pm

I am currently designing a new turf field (to commemorate Rich May other fallen officers)on a site in East Palo Alto. As part of our effort we had to compare the annual maintenance cost of natural grass fields and artificial turf. Grass fields cost an average of $105,000 per year in irrigation, fertilizer, and mowing. Turf fields cost $3100.

Ground up tires and running shoes are no longer used in most turf products. These were the primary concerns of those who claim the fields are toxic. Many use organic materials. Field Turf, the product we are using is also 40% permeable, allowing much of the rain water to percolate back into the ground.

As noted these fields can be used all day, year round without fear of injury.

The advantages far outweigh the environmental costs, if any.

Like this comment
Posted by John in Woodside
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 25, 2010 at 6:40 pm

We wrestled with the same set of concerns at the Woodside Elementary School a few years ago, and chose to install an artificial turf field on the U12 and under soccer field. This time of year, it is booked all weekend, and after school every day. This is where the Menlo Park kids are playing soccer during the rainy season, when the majority of other fields are closed (sometimes for months at a time). Little league baseball is even using that field one day/week after school, since the baseball fields are so muddy. (and West Alpine Little League is roughly 70% MP kids) This WES turf field is considered a multi-city community resource, even though other cities didn't help pay for it's installation. If I recall correctly, it was funded through a private fund raising drive, and the cost of the WES turf field above the cost of a grass field was not paid for with a public tax.

We looked at the out gassing problem, and found two details. One, the chemicals considered carcinogenic require that the "fill" get to a temp in excess of 600 deg F, in order to be released from the rubber compound that they are bound to. If the turf field ever hits 600+ deg F, outgassing of potentially carcinogenic chemicals long term is probably the least of our worries. Two, since sometime in the mid 1990s, all asphalt supplied in Calif has ground up tires mixed in, both to reduce the noise level of cars driving on the roads, and to reduce the permeability (extending the lifetime of the asphalt road). If the ground up tires mixed in with asphalt in all the roads, which account for perhaps 20%+ of all surface area in an urban city, release dangerous compounds, the incremental chemicals released from an acre or two on an artificial turf playing field is "background noise" in the environment. How many hundreds of acres of asphalt parking lots, roads, etc are in MP?

We measured a max temp difference of 35 deg F at the sun's highest point of the day; the temp differential went down as the angle of the sun also decreased from 90 deg (vertical). We installed a sprinkler system on the WES artificial turf field, to cool the temps and to "rinse" it if/when needed. With a 35 deg temp differential over the natural grass, 10 mins of sprinkling and five mins of evaporation were observed to take about 25 degress of the 35 degrees out of the turf. We typically get a few afternoons in Sept each year when things are this hot. (say ambient temp is still 100 deg F at 3PM and turf might be 120 deg F, not max difference since the angle of the sun is no longer vertical) It seems that the heat is absorbed in the green grass blades, not in the black fill. Changing the color of the synthetic grass, even slightly, had a major impact on the heat absorbtion. Suggest you look more closely at this, and select a color of greeen for which the Sun does not produce a lot of light exactly at that wavelength, and the heat problem largely goes away.

Minor injuries are way down on the turf field, compared to natural grass. Twisted ankles, twisted knees, scraped legs and the like are all far more common on natural grass. (Most big universities and pro football teams use artifical turf practice fields, specifically to reduce player injuries, to increase field availability, and to reduce maintenance costs.) Most citizens abide by the rule to keep their dogs off the turf field.

It's a great debate to have in public.

With the bubble of increased school enrollment happening in MP, hard to imagine a reduced demand for playing fields. Plus, as empty nesters sold their MP homes to younger couples, these younger couples are also increasing demand for adult rec leagues. (easy to estimate an increase in demand, by perhaps 50%?) Both population trends, combined with the fact that MP doesn't have a significant supply of of undeveloped multi-acre lots that could be developed into public playing fields to meet the increased demand, suggests to me that MP's best choice would be to convert several of their existing fields into turf fields, primarily to increase field availability, and secondarily to reduce maintenance costs (water useage being one such cost). You can get data from PV and from Woodside town, on the sand channel natural field construction method. While it drains the excess rainwater more quickly, it also drains the irrigation water more quickly in the other seven months of the year, thereby driving up irrigation water useage. Multiple methods were used at Barkley Field (Woodside), Rossotti's and PV Town Center (PV), so a few years of comparative data is available. Canada College baseball field, Red Morton center, Sequoia HS locally all use some kind of turf field, and data can be acquired from them.

Good luck with the decision. There's a lot of really happy kids in a broader region playing year round on the WES turf field, after we had our debate and made a decision. (our compromise was to keep the three K fields at WES natural grass, so we have data and experience with both at the same site.)

Like this comment
Posted by Willy
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jan 26, 2010 at 10:32 am


You are smoking something if you think there isn't concern about water USAGE in California. You're a little "too close to the trees" in your conservation business, I suppose.

Washing down the fields? I've been on dozens of them and have yet to see sprinklers or any installed "rinse" system. Where do you find this rubbish?

10 teachers? And the additional costs of grass at nearly $100k per year in maintenance plays in how?

When you look at how badly grass fields get churned up in the current environment, how much it costs to attempt to maintain them with the high usage, the chemicals required annually, all for nought because the fields are unusable in winter and run bare of grass in summer (see Red Morton,) then the better choice is turf.

And I hate to admit that plastic is better than grass. I didn't like it 10 years ago when they first put it in at Carlmont and Sequoia.

But it is the best of the two choices. And one assumes newer products are even better and cheaper than the original turf from 10 years ago.

There are bigger and better environmental fights than this one.

Rock on, my friend...

Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2010 at 7:32 am


You are smoking something if you think there isn't concern about water USAGE in California.

Synthetic Grass ?......Sorry it was irresistible.

Like this comment
Posted by Ben
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 29, 2010 at 3:11 pm

The fact that you haven't seen sprinklers or workers with hoses on fields is scary.

Anything that gets on the field (blood, dog urine, saliva, puke, beer) will stay there forever unless water is used to wash it off.

Ask any artificial turf company and they will tell you that synthetic fields need cleaning and cooling with water.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Get fact-based reporting on the COVID-19 crisis sent to your inbox daily.

Palo Alto's Mayfield Bakery & Cafe permanently closes after 11-year run
By Elena Kadvany | 18 comments | 15,023 views

City staff is running Palo Alto
By Diana Diamond | 24 comments | 3,163 views

Couples: Are you Committed to your Vows or Dysfunction?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,461 views

Kids and sugar: A cautionary tale
By Sherry Listgarten | 8 comments | 1,362 views

Preparing for School
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 519 views