Turf isn’t the answer


To the Editor:

A version of this letter was sent to the MVRHS School Committee.

I’m a father of three soccer-loving kids, a youth soccer coach, a concerned global citizen, a lifelong athlete, and also someone who worked seven seasons at a top European football club, FCBarcelona. I know executives who worked at FIFA in charge of installing plastic turf around the world, and another who worked for a top North American artificial turf company. Both left their positions in disgust and dismay after numerous failed projects, which are seldom reported and many in litigation. One saw first hand how African kids developed terrible blisters playing on plastic (this doesn’t happen on grass which naturally cools). The other resigned after his company’s plastic carpet melted in the summer heat, causing a chemical spill into his own US neighborhood’s water system.

Over my career I have also observed that many of the best soccer players come out of underdeveloped nations where field conditions are rough to say the least. The repeated statements coming from coaches claiming that Vineyard students require plastic fields to remain competitive are untrue and I believe send the wrong message to our student athletes. While I definitely appreciate the value of safe, healthy fields (and fully support the Field Fund’s work to that end), let’s help our kids focus on what athletics are really about — teamwork, fun, adaptability, training, persistence, strategy, etc. and enjoying sport in nature, not at the expense of it.

It is simply irresponsible for our school leaders to support laying plastic for our children to play on, while its safety is dubious at best. Especially so in the midst of the climate crisis where the very sustainability of our communities depends on the concerted and urgent effort by each and every one of us, and also importantly on the proper education of our children. Please put the sales pitch and local politics aside, and use rational and concerned thinking. Our community does not need plastic turf to play on when healthy natural grass is the safest and more economic solution. Grass is the right decision for our environment, community and children. Let’s hope the MVC and Town of Oak Bluffs will vote more responsibly.

PS: I’m also highly concerned about the fact that it seems the MVRHS committee used $100K to commission a misleading report reflective of a small subsection of the Island community, when it is all of our children and all of our money that will be impacted.

PPS: Since our decisions as consumers are directly linked to the sustainability of this world, we need to be better informed of what companies are marketing and selling to us. You can see many cases of litigation taking place nationwide against one of the leading plastic turf companies here http://fieldturf.nj.com. Please do not pretend we are isolated from this living on MVY.

Josh Thomson
West Tisbury


  1. Lets be realistic here, I have been working on the Fields on this Island, for 20 plus years.
    I think this is a good Compromise, one synthetic Turf field ( made from recyled material and will be recycled after its life) this will allow the 6 natural grass fields to rest and be able to grow.
    This field will not need to be watered,mowed, fertilized or aerated thus less resiurces being used to maintain it.
    I haven’t even gotten into the safety factors,flat surface:no divots,holes etc, less injuries to athletes:
    A safer better alternative:

  2. It is a good compromise.
    Josh Thomson is out of touch. This letter is dramatic in nature, and misleading at best.

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