Field negotiations plant seeds for the future

The school and community start making plans.

Recent graduate of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School Pearl Vercruysse running on the high school track. — Amanda Lucidi

This summer, Vineyarders for Grass Fields and the school committee are in ongoing negotiations regarding plans to rebuild school fields across the Island. Negotiations follow a year-long debate about whether natural grass or synthetic turf is the most suitable approach to remedy declining field conditions.

Rebekah Thomson, a spokeswoman for Vineyarders for Grass Fields, said next steps include lawyers from each side creating a licensing agreement. Geotechnical surveys need to be conducted, and engineers and landscape architects need access to the fields.

“And the next step, which would go hand in hand, would be a bigger licensing agreement for the project itself,” Ms. Thomson said. “We’ve been doing a lot of work on the back end to get everything teed up.”

The proposal calls for an organic program, in keeping with Island regulations, which includes groundwater quality fertilizers, natural or organic fertilizer, soil conditioners, compost mixes, and top-dressings.

Vineyarders for Grass Fields’ proposal sought funding for a new high school track as a top priority, as well as upgrades and maintenance to athletic fields across Island.

Athletic director Mark McCarthy says they will likely have the fall to decide how to utilize the track, assuming no changes are made before the upcoming season.

“I know there were some members of the school committee who were pretty adamant about having a new surface for the track team — which would be nice — but I’m not sure if that’s the direction they’re actually going to go,” Mr. McCarthy said. “We are kind of waiting on what pans out.”

He says they may elect to use outer lanes of the track, as they are in better shape.

Superintendent of Schools Matt D’Andrea hopes the project will be complete by spring of 2019. “When we do have an agreement, it will be brought to the school committee and discussed in an open session,” Mr. D’Andrea said.

The Field Fund, through the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard, began fundraising to fuel the estimated $6 million project, which includes a $2 million track.

The estimate covers upfront costs for Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, as well as ongoing maintenance for all fields — the lack of which is a significant factor contributing to Island-wide field deterioration. Basic maintenance practices are a focus of the proposal.

“The school committee has allowed for some money to be appropriated for seeding, fill, fertilizer, and so forth, and that work has happened,” Mr. McCarthy said. “The water system is now in good shape, compared to what it was before — we have zones; we have a better chance of bringing back to life.”