Chilmark petitioners want all-grass MVRHS fields

The petition article will be heard during a special town meeting called to address the still unfunded high school budget.

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. —Eunki Seonwoo

As Chilmark prepares for a June special town meeting, a group of petitioners will be asking that the playing fields at the Martha’s VIneyard Regional High School remain grass.

Chilmark resident Sheila Muldaur presented two petition articles containing more than 100 signatures each to the town’s select board Tuesday. 

One article would petition the town to ask the high school to commit to an “all-grass campus with no plastic fields.” 

“This came up because I was completely confused by everything that has happened over the last month, with towns rejecting the budget because of the legal expenses, and my erroneous understanding was the school committee was listening to the people and going to move to grass,” Muldaur said. “But as I’m reading further and further into it, they’re not doing that at all, and I don’t think they’re listening.”

Chilmark was one of the towns to shoot down its share of the high school budget in protest against the lawsuit Martha’s Vineyard Regional School District vs. the Town of Oak Bluffs Planning Board last month. Earlier this month, the school committee announced it would enter into settlement negotiations; the committee will also submit the same budget to voters, with an explanation about not using funding from the fiscal year 2024 budget for the lawsuit.

Muldaur’s other petition article is a nonbinding resolution requesting the town to ask the high school — if the synthetic field does advance — to commit to “no anonymous donation above $5,000 for legal action, experts, project design, and permitting related to any and all plastic fields on the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School campus.” 

Muldaur said the schools should be transparent about donation funding. While the resolutions were nonbinding, Muldaur said it would send a message to the school committee.

Muldaur made a point that the school committee does not seem to be seeing the “big picture,” particularly the potential harm from PFAS. 

“As this thing has evolved, more and more information about PFAS and the detrimental nature of having them in your water supply has come out,” she said. “New information comes out every day, and it’s all negative, and I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want our water to be contaminated, and us and our heirs to have to spend the rest of their lives worrying about PFAS in their drinking water.” 

When asked by select board chair Bill Rossi, Chilmark town administrator Tim Carroll said the petitions should have been brought to the town further in advance, so they could be posted 48 hours before the meeting. However, the over 100 signatures on the petitions, which still need to be certified, would push the requests into the town meeting warrant. 

Select board member Jim Malkin also pointed out the 100-signature threshold being met would put the petitions into the special town meeting as warrant articles. However, he underscored that the school committee is attempting to resolve the lawsuit with the Oak Bluffs planning board. 

“I would certainly hate that any action that was taken … by our town would get in the way of an appropriate resolution to this litigation,” he said. 

Muldaur said the petitions would not get in the way since the synthetic field still seems to be going forward. 

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent Richie Smith for answers said these details were still being worked out by the two parties’ attorneys. “The planning board does have a proposal, but I can’t speak to it publicly,” Smith said. 

Rossi said while he didn’t side with either grass or synthetic turf, he was not in favor of “politicizing” the high school budget in this way. Muldaur denied the idea her petitions were a politicization of the high school budget. 

Although no vote was taken, the board decided to refer the petitions to town counsel Ron Rappaort. 

The town’s $993,112 share of the high school budget will also be put to a vote during the special town meeting. 

MVRHS will not be the only issue for voters to consider during the Chilmark special town meeting. Although details have not been finalized, it is planned to be held on Monday, June 5, at the Chilmark Community Center at 7 pm. The draft warrant article is available on the town website

In other news, the board unanimously appointed Garrison Vieira as the new Chilmark Police sergeant. 

Chilmark will also be putting up signs to reflect the state’s new law that motorists need to give cyclists four feet of “safety room,” according to Carroll. 

Meanwhile, the Chilmark planning board will be looking at options for amending the town’s zoning bylaws to accommodate more housing units. This is in an effort to support the Peaked Hill Pastures project.


  1. This is ridiculous, one town holding the HS budget, an MVC approved plan, and soon to be settled or court rendered judgement, hostage. Here is the Field Fund again, trying to force their already illegal request to require the school to go with an “all grass’ campus. By law, you can not restrict a school or public entity by forcing them to go with an all grass campus. That is illegal and I hope the Town of Chilmark attorney informs them of this. Ironic, Chilmark will now have to pay attorney’s fees. This is the Field Fund all over again when they tried to force the school to do this years ago. It was determined that the school can not legally do this. Then the anonymous donations restriction, come on, can’t everyone see through this, why this stipulation, is it your intent to harass the donors? Please Chilmark leadership, deny these requests. In some circles, this would be considered bullying.

  2. Ms.Muldar
    The most exasperating issue for me is everyone talks of their fears but doesn’t read the facts.
    The testing lab hired by the MVC determined that the PFAS found in the Synthetic Turf products was de minimis.
    1. Synthetic Turf Laboratory Testing and Analysis Report
    a. Read the bottom paragraphs of pgs, 40, 41, 42,45,46
    b. All tests produces a de minimis finding for toxicity for
    the Turf Field Products
    2. Weston & Sampson Soil Tested Report Oak Bluffs School
    & MVRHS playing fields 10/28/22
    a. Results pg 3 item 6
    1. All soil samples are consistently higher than in
    synthetic turf components.

    What these two FACTUAL reports state is that the Synthetic Turf field will not pollute the aquifer and that the current PFAS levels in the soil are much higher that the PFAS in the Synthetic Turf products. If you are interested these reports are listed in the MVC file when they approved the Synthetic Turf Field.

    Terry Donahue

    • Terry– I notice that you don’t post any “hot links” to your reports.
      One can take the time to hunt all those studies down and see for themselves, but since you are using them to support your position, why not just post the actual studies here ?
      It’s easy— highlight the URL ,hit “ctrl” and the letter “c” simultaneously. Place your cursor where you want to add the information and then hit “ctrl” and the letter “p” simultaneously, and , presto, like magic, we can all see what you are talking about.
      But I am very curious as to where these “current PFAS levels in the soil [that]are much higher that the PFAS in the Synthetic Turf products” came from.

        • Patrick—Sorry, I was in Barbados.
          Ok — This doesn’t really answer my question about where this stuff is coming from .
          It’s in the rain ?
          If that’s true, we should shut the production of this stuff down tomorrow.
          And I get it– it’s in really low concentrations now , but as more of it gets spread around, the concentration level goes up. It’s not a today problem, but I have grandchildren that I care about.
          if you read some of my comments, you will see that PFAS are not my main concern. I have read the studies, looked at the science, and have determined that PFAS associated with this field are not that big of an issue. FOR NOW.
          I have been saying that for a while.
          I have other legitimate reasons to oppose this that I base on many studies and “science” if you care to call it that–

          I don’t think it’s cost effective
          Athletes sustain higher rates of injuries
          It smothers the natural biome there, and would take serious efforts time and money to return it to a natural environment should unexpected problems arise in the future. ( think microplastics being inhaled by future players, for instance )
          Thye carbon footprint is unacceptable.
          There is virtually no possibility it will actually be recycled in any meaningful way.
          I have been addressing these issues for as long as this boondoggle has been going on.
          I hope I am being clear-

          Thanks for pointing this article out to me .

          • I have read your concerns, although I disagree with your assertions about injuries, I hear them. However, the issue that got the project denied was PFAS, that is why this is being appealed, no other reason. Not injuries, not recycling, not the carbon footprint, it was PFAS and the science doesn’t support the Chair’s reasons for the denial. To try to answer your question, where it came from? There is an indication that the fertilizers the Field Fund used on the OB School could be one reason for the higher levels of PFAS on that field, yet they won’t disclose what product they used. Just because it says organic, it doesn’t mean PFAS free. Hope you had a great trip.

  3. You mean a petition for all dirt and weeds. How about we in OB petition for Chilmark to open their beaches. End #beachapartheid

    • John– weeds grow in dirt– just like grass does.
      if there are some weeds in the grass field, what’s the problem ?
      I don’t think we need to spray toxic herbicides ( as someone else suggested) to get rid of every dandelion growing in a field.
      As for your beach comment— SQUIRRELL

    • There is a public beach in Chilmark at Menemsha. The lifeguards on duty at that beach receive their wages from the fees paid by residents for Vincent and Squibnocket parking stickers. So, the public can enjoy that beach and know they are safe while others foot the bill. The latter beaches mentioned are private property leased by the town, and the “residents only” restriction is a condition of the leases.

      • CPA money was used at Squibnocket for the recent renovation there. State money. So spare us the “we foot the bill.” The town does own a parcel at Squibnocket meaning it’s public. And if you can’t get a profile number for the ferry, are you a resident?

        • Erik– I knew that “end#beachapartheid” would bring out a comment from you . Agree with your opinion or not, you have certainly earned your way into the historical narrative of the Vineyard.
          For that, you have my respect.

  4. This method of doing business is not sustainable. If Chilmark wants an equal say then they should pay one 1/6 or 16.66 percent of the budget not 6 %. the cost per student calculus that is used now is not a true representation of what it costs a town to fund a high school. If Chilmark were to build its own high school with its own gym, fields, art rooms, music rooms, especial ed program, admiration cost etc. the cost per student would be astronomical. Even Chilmark with all of its valuable real estate and small population would struggle to support its own high school. This fact needs to be recognized and addressed. It is time to overhaul the high school agreement and come of with an entirely new calculus for funding the school. Nantucket is one island one town its works very well. all the equity of the island is pooled and no one section of the island is overburdened because that happens to be the area where the working class people who provide services for the entire island live. Can we please for the good of our children and our community start acting like a one island community. the high school school regional agreement is broke, time to fix it.

    • Interesting you mention Nantucket as at Nantucket’s most recent town meeting they did not approve funding for new high school athletic fields. The reason why is their athletic fields are all grass and poorly maintained to the extent of being dangerous. They felt why should we spend more money on new Fields when we can’t even maintain the current ones.

      • Bob, your missing the point of my letter. please stop being one dimensional. i not fighting for or against the turf fields. i’m fighting over the fact that our children are collateral damage in up islands decision to defund the school to make a point, such a shameful thing. Yes, Nantucket decide no Turf, that was there decision, they did it as one island community. No one defunded the schools, no one spit in the face of our superintendent and principal and willfully hurt the children.
        Nantucket, made there decision with class, I am sure they debated and augured their points as people in a democracy should, but they never lost sight of the good of the children.
        up island has under the leadership of their school committee members lost sight of the children. Of course, there are so few kids up island and so many private schools off island the good of the island kids is clearly not their primary concern. It is time for them to resign or be removed and then it is time to overhaul they system so the kids education can never be taken hostage again by a minority trying to make their point at all costs.

    • The way to fix it is to make the Island one town.
      Everyone pays the same.
      Not just Island but the whole county.
      We would be named Dukestown.

    • I like your thinking John.
      The school region should be expanded to include all of the county.
      Gosnold would pay 1/7 of the high school budget, they currently have zero high school students.

  5. Problem solved, eliminate sports played on turf or grass. There’s plenty of other options. No, mom and dad your kid isn’t likely to get a sports scholarship to college and if they do possess that athletic ability they will find their way on basketball, hockey, track, cross country , swimming, tennis, volleyball or more hopefully an academic scholarship. Let’s save the $10 million or so on the fields, and the space it takes up and put them both towards affordable housing for school staff. Our kids can prosper with better teachers and education while forgoing a handful of sport teams. I’ll probably lose this argument to the soccer moms and testosterone dads.

  6. I was walking up Aquinnah today and guess what I had to walk over a plastic mat to get to Moshup Beach, yes, a plastic mat going over the dune trail to the beach, no kidding. Plastic is a handy material and is used in so many forms and has so many functions, I must say for the town of Gay Head I mean Aquinnah to say a plastic mat at the high school is bad but a plastic mat at Moshup Beach is good, well let’s just say, I don’t know what do you think.

  7. Outstanding petition!!! It does not make sense that the High School talks about caring for the youth of Martha’s Vineyard and wants to put in turf that could potentially put the entire island at risk by contaminating our water supply.
    The slightest risk should be enough not to pursue this venture. If you really care then protect the water for the youth of tomorrow.

    • James, then we would also have to eliminate any further use of septic systems, as they are the biggest risk of contaminating our water with PFAS, that has been proven. In addition, no more use of asphalt, the oil run off from roads will most certainly contaminate the water table, and while you are at it, no more green lawns as the nitrogen is killing our ponds. No more rubber tires on your bikes, cars, scooters, etc, because the rubber break down from those will deposit chemicals into the water table. The irony of all of this, is that the turf field would be safer for our water table than any of the above mentioned articles. The testing done has proven this. The issue is that you likely use all of the above so you won’t protest their use. You should be more concerned of what they are doing directly in the VH harbor, I can almost promise you there will be some kind of oil spill. Stop the hysterics about the field because it is less dangerous than what you use in your home every day.

  8. I’ll try again.
    How is it the Ms. Muldaur of Chilmark knows more about what is being negotiated than any other person in the general public. She sure seems to be in the know ! Now explain how is it possible since negotiations have taken place in executive meetings? “ the petition would not get in the way since the the synthetic fields seem to be going forward “.
    Have a great day

  9. I’m sure that college talent scouts can determine the value of an athlete whether they play on grass or plastic.

    And on a different note:

    Unfortunately, even if all the supporters of artificial turf agreed to divide the approximate 30 TONS of plastic and let it disintegrate in THEIR backyards every 10 years when the artificial fields need replacing, it would STILL end up in the water that we ALL DRINK. I’ve been carefully rinsing out and recycling my plastic bottles for decades, and I got to thinking the other day about how many plastic bottles it would take to to weight 3 tons. I’m just guessing, but I bet that if the entire skating rink building were filled to the ceiling with plastic bottles THREE TIMES, it still wouldn’t weigh 3 tons, just to put this HUGE AMOUNT OF PLASTIC into perspective.

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