To the Editor:
Islanders recently joined the global community in taking action this Earth Day — participating in Zero Waste Week, cleaning up beaches, and pledging to further reduce our footprints. However, truly honoring Earth Day’s mission to end plastic pollution requires the hard work of “fundamentally changing human attitude and behavior about plastics.” Fortunately, local organizations and individuals, including the Vineyard Conservation Society, Plastic Free on MV, 350 Martha’s Vineyard Island, and a number of student-led groups have been guiding Islanders to do just that. And the Field Fund is proud to extend this effort to preserve and improve the Island’s green spaces.
At a time when even some environmentally conscientious folks have been duped into thinking plastic fields are somehow necessary, the Field Fund is committed to proving otherwise. Thoughtful maintenance — with proper aeration with specialized equipment, along with better seed and mowing practices, improved irrigation systems, and nontoxic soil amendments — will rejuvenate the Island’s playing fields, making them healthy, durable, and more drought-resistant. Natural grass also brings the additional benefits of runoff reduction, carbon sequestration, pollutant filtration, air replenishment, and a natural cooling effect, among others, and is far and away the more fiscally responsible choice.
Last fall, the Field Fund ran a pilot program to test maintenance practices and refine our approach. This year, we will expand to help maintain the fields at Chilmark, Edgartown School, and West Tisbury School and town, plus Tisbury’s Veterans Field and the Little League baseball fields. In July, Oak Bluffs School’s two fields will receive a full upgrade, complete with improved grading and an efficient irrigation system with a new, nonpotable well. This fall, we will regrade the Chilmark infield, and look ahead to potential renovations at the other schools over the next few years.
On a broader level, with support from University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI), the Field Fund is committed to being a strong resource to other communities seeking to improve their playing fields without breaking the bank, using toxic materials, or turning to plastic alternatives. By offering a truly sustainable model, we hope to inspire others to invest in their natural grass.
In this day and age, with a global movement to decrease dependence on fossil fuels and end plastic pollution, it is disheartening to see the MVRHS continue to pursue plastic fields, in direct violation of the school committee’s own 10-year all-grass campus policy (enacted unanimously less than a year ago). They seem committed to working with Gale Associates, one of the largest peddlers of plastic fields. Make no mistake, a 2-acre plastic field contains the equivalent of approximately 3 million plastic bags, which inevitably break down over the carpet’s lifespan and migrate into the soil, waterways, food chains, and athletes, until the carpet must be disposed of and replaced, and the cycle begins again. Indefinitely.
The environmental, human, and indeed financial costs of these decisions are all too real, locally and globally. Now is the time to come together with common cause and teach our children that supporting athletics and the environment are not mutually exclusive.
Mollie Doyle, Dardanella Slavin, and Rebekah Thomson
The Field Fund