To the Editor:
It’s disappointing that the Chilmark Board of Selectmen would vote on the proposal of MV@Play to privately fund and rebuild the athletic campus at the high school without including the volunteer proponents, all parents of current or former school athletes. To us, that endangers public process where, it would seem, opponents of anything can control the outcome by ensuring that the proponents have no opportunity to present their proposals and receive an impartial hearing. It is only right and fair that the proponents be given the opportunity to represent their project in front of the Chilmark selectmen as custodians of good public process.
Nonetheless, we welcome the referral to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and, in fact, were in the process of making it ourselves. The delay, which we would have told the selectmen had they chosen to include us in their decision-making, has simply been due to the demands of work and retrieving final schematics from our engineering team.
It’s worth repeating that our proposal — at this stage, Phase 1 — was developed according to very specific and stringent requirements outlined by the high school athletic department and school administrators. The full master plan leaves 65 percent of the 41 acres of public athletic fields natural grass. Phase 1 would rebuild the track, which is likely to be condemned by state athletic officials, threatening the spring 2017 season, and add a multisport synthetic turf field with organic infill of coconut husks, sand and cork.
We are incredibly lucky on this Island to have a booming crop of student and adult athletes. Unfortunately, we do not have fields that can accommodate the amount of practice and play from multiple sports — football, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse, men’s and women’s, boys’ and girls’, and our existing fields have not and cannot stand up to that use and abuse.
Natural grass fields must be rested on a schedule so the root system can repair and heal from use. Synthetic fields, which can be played on rain or shine, allow for that rotation, and additionally produce zero nitrogen runoff, unlike grass, which is threatening our aquifer. They also don’t require fertilizers or pesticides. Cleaning turf — if it happens at all — is done with certified “green” products. Our plan also includes natural-grass multisports fields to be used by our youngest players.
There is much more to say about our proposal — a proposal by a group of volunteer parents and business owners — that we are happy and anxious to share with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, which we know values facts. And we would hope that if there is, as there seems to be, a concerted effort by opponents to get other public bodies to weigh in, that elected officials would have a sense of basic fairness and civic duty and ask that we participate. In truth, we’re excited about what can happen at the high school. It can be a safe and healthy center of activity for players young and old. That’s been our vision from the beginning, and we welcome any opportunity to present the proposal.
Matthew Poole, member