Everyday environmentalist for turf fields

To the Editor:

As I stand on the sidelines, as I have done for the past 11 years, watching my daughters pursue their dreams, I have had a lot of time to think. It has been a huge effort on their part to excel in their sport. It has required year-round play, balancing seasonal sports with their club team practices, lots of boat rides, and driving them to and fro — mostly shouldered by Dad — and their own sheer determination to make all those necessary sacrifices. We have seen a lot of fields over those years, prep schools to public, the nation’s finest Ivy League as well as state-of-the-art training centers.

Currently our Island community faces a great challenge. To find a balance between safety and performance, between the reality of what is and the ideals we strive for. Between emotion and information. I imagine we all want to provide the best fields for our athletes. For all of us who are passionately involved in the turf debate, we must try to clear our way to what we know, and be aware of what we do not know. For all of us who have children directly affected by the quality of the fields our athletes play on, we must be willing to find a solution that will serve our children as well as our Island.

I am not your average turf supporter. I am an everyday environmentalist. Our family has slowly weeded plastic water bottles out of our lives, chemicals from our daily care products, and we eat only organic, so we try to defend our environment with our purchasing power. We care very much about this planet and this treasured Island we call home. I have read and researched many reports on turf fields. I have learned about the past evils and all that has been done to improve them. Our timing is good, and our need is undeniable. We have choices now that did not exist in the initial stages and development of turf fields:. coco fill versus. crumb rubber, a better lead-free paint for the lines, better cleaning solutions for long-term maintenance.

The opposition is very justified in wanting questions answered. We as taxpayers want to know what lurks ahead in the expense column. But one thing we know for certain, without any doubt, is that currently our fields are a mess. They are not safe, and they are not maintainable as they exist now. Ask any athletes who play on them how they feel. Ask any grass expert the feasibility of growing grass with what we have and its usage. It is just not possible.

In an ideal utopia, we all dream of gorgeous green fields flourishing without the endless use of synthetic pesticides, but that is not a reality we can choose. On a cost basis alone, grass is more expensive, and more toxic in the short and long term. But what would one turf field do for our existing grass fields? It would create an environment to play at our best. It would allow for our grass fields to come back to life and create more than one better place to play. It would enable both practice and competition in inclement weather, and it would allow us as a community to grow in our knowledge and understanding of what serves us best.

Undeniably we live in a modern world. Eliminating the evils of plastic would require no more travel in cars or airplanes, no more devices at the touch of our fingers, and very few items left in our hospitals. We all want to make smarter choices about where and when we utilize modern technology. As seen through my daughters’ eyes, these grass fields keep them down. Their inconsistent surfaces are dangerous and unpredictable, and truly create an uneven playing field. They don’t allow athletes to be competitive, and do very little to boost their pride and morale. This pulls at me the most. I have seen what being a student athlete who cares about her effort and her team’s well-being provides. This versus the student whose potential remains dormant, never to be realized; no sport or teammates to unlock this remarkable difference in an individual’s life. It is imperative we do the best we can to support our high school students and their efforts.

This above all else must be our concern. All of the finest schools and teams across the globe play on turf, and from the athletes’ perspective, it is not that hard to see why. Perhaps this perspective can broaden our thinking as we come together to help Island athletes. Martha’s Vineyard is a unique and unparalleled place. Wouldn’t it be fitting to create the best, most environmentally conscientious turf field we can? Our opposition is smart and savvy, and the union of both sides to create just such a field would truly be fitting of this remarkable place we all call home.

Lucia Hayman
Edgartown