Reasons to vote no on field money

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To the Editor:

We urge the voters of Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury to please vote no on spending $350,000 for design of a new MVRHS track and plastic game field. This $350,000 is only the tip of the iceberg. The total estimated cost of the proposed plan is $16.9 million — money that could fix the many urgent MVRHS building needs.

More reasons to vote no:

  • Your school representatives have all voted no on this proposed project. Twice.
  • Priorities. Yes, the MVRHS needs a new track. But the MVRHS building also needs a full renovation or rebuild. Shouldn’t we have a plan for this projected $100 million project before relocating the track?
  • Fiscal irresponsibility. Two years ago, the Field Fund — backed by generous donors with a long history of supporting large-scale community projects here — spent $55,000 trying to gift the MVRHS a new, $2 million track and state-of-the-art grass infield. Now the school leadership is asking taxpayers to fund the project, this time with a far more expensive (not to mention toxic) plastic field?
  • Excessive spending. The estimated $1.4 million for the plastic field could be used to fully upgrade all five MVRHS grass fields, with money to spare!
  • Poor spending. There is no guarantee that this expensive, highly controversial surface will be approved by the town of Oak Bluffs and Martha’s Vineyard Commission — especially when there is a cheaper, safer, and more environmentally conscious choice: grass.
  • Grass is cheaper. The Field Fund has already proven that grass is cheaper. We have invested more than $400,000 into equipment and 10 Island fields — including the full renovation of two grass fields at the Oak Bluffs School for under $200,000. This project included local labor, state-of-the-art irrigation and a new nonpotable well. Based on our experience, one MVRHS field renovation will cost less than $200,000, and the annual maintenance at the MVRHS will be about $20,000 a year. The proposed plastic field at MVRHS will cost $1.4 million to install, about $10,000 to maintain annually, and at least $500,000 to dispose of and replace the carpet every seven to 10 years. So do we want to invest $600,000 in one high school grass field for 20 years, or spend $2.1 million on one plastic field for 20 years?
  • Environmental impact. A plastic field contributes to climate change. As a petroleum product, the carpet releases carbon dioxide when it is produced. When installed, it creates a superheated surface, warming the planet (and overheating athletes) during its five- to 10-year usable life. As the plastic fibers inevitably break down, they release methane (21 times more potent than carbon dioxide) and contaminate the Island’s fragile ecosystem. On the flip side, a happy byproduct of a healthy grass field is that it serves as a climate mitigation tool, cooling the planet and sequestering carbon.
  • Broad concern. The Vineyard Conservation Society, Island Grown Initiative, Mass Audubon, environmental educators, and scientists have written to the MVRHS School Committee and superintendent to express their deep opposition.
  • Grass works for us. A well-maintained field traps dust, reduces pollution, filters stormwater, and does not load nitrogen. In fact, it is proven that properly applied soil amendments actually help the grass plant become a better vehicle for absorbing runoff. Increasing just 1 percent of the organic matter in a field’s soil enables it to hold 20,000 more gallons of water! The Field Fund uses between one and two pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square foot a year (although some fields are not fertilized at all due to proximity to wellheads), far below conventional protocols.

Let’s vote no and get some more grass growing!

 

Mollie Doyle, Dardanella Slavin, Rebekah Thomson
The Field Fund