Field ballot going to West Tisbury voters 

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West Tisbury voters can say their preference for the MVRHS athletic field surface. —Daniel Greenman

West Tisbury residents will have a chance to vote their opinion regarding the high school athletic field this spring. 

The West Tisbury Select Board unanimously approved two nonbinding ballot questions on the surface of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) field during a Wednesday, Jan. 31, meeting. One asks if voters prefer a grass field, while the other asks if they prefer artificial/synthetic turf. 

The select board is so far the first on the Island to decide to put the question on the ballot.

The decision follows a MVRHS School Committee vote last month to request towns put the nonbinding ballot question to voters in the upcoming town elections. The idea at the time had come from committee member and West Tisbury Select Board Chair Skipper Manter. Manter pointed out that voters had never been asked what their preference was regarding the field surface. 

During Wednesday’s select board meeting, board member Jessica Miller said it would be interesting to see how many voters show up, particularly because the field was of interest to so many people. 

When select board member Cynthia Mitchell asked whether the results would be “skewed” if an Island town decided against adding the ballot question, Manter replied that having “some knowledge would be better than no knowledge.”

“If this ends up on a ballot, we will get a record turnout,” Miller said. 

The final ballot question language still needs to undergo clerical changes. “It’s just a matter of gathering information,” Manter said.

The West Tisbury Select Board voted to go forward with the ballot question.

14 COMMENTS

  1. It’s great that voters will have a chance to weigh in on the advisability of turf athletic fields at the high school. I just hope the town (and any other town on the island) properly informs voters of the cons and supposed pros of turf. While the product may have seemed like a good idea when it was first implemented in the 1960s, in recent years more information has come to light about its adverse environmental and health effects; and the rising heat levels we are experiencing into the fall sports season due to climate change are elevating the danger to kids and their coaches. One of the most alarming indications that the artificial turf industry needs to re-imagine the material it uses (rubber) is that reports have come to light that children’s feet are burning on turf fields – meaning through their shoes! (I have heard at least one such story directly from a parent.) Here’s a link to an article explaining this danger: https://news.gsu.edu/2017/03/16/artificial-turf-safety/. Then, as the article also confronts, there’s the known presence of toxic PFAS chemicals in the product, which to my knowledge some aware people on the island have already expressed concerns about to the local authorities. And, per a recent news story on WBUR, the challenges disposing of used turf is leading the farmlands of Pennsylvania toward a new classification: toxic waste dump. Who on MV wants to be a NIMBY on this issue? I hope the adults in charge of making decisions on this matter will adopt a more responsible attitude than I’ve discerned in local coverage, and put the health and lives of children and their coaches – as well as our natural habitat, including groundwater, in our own and fellow states in the Union – ahead of yet another industry’s profit motive and inability to make useful adjustments to its product, leaving its consumers and state governments to clean up its mess. Turf may appear to offer “convenience,” and I get the narrative some put out that it makes teams more “competitive” since “everyone is using it.” It’s also fun to play on when it’s NOT overheating. But it’s clear from mounting evidence that the wrong stuff is being used to make it. Rather than Vineyard schools following in the footsteps of mainland schools that were convinced to implement artificial turf before more was known about it, maybe the Vineyard can help lead the way toward a better alternative, with a voter base fully informed of the risks that were not initially apparent. Plus kids at the high school could probably come up with a great science/engineering project that addresses this. That vaunted concept of America as a society distinguished by “innovation” has an opportunity to show itself: that is, if an adequately informed electorate on a small island off the East Coast can send a message in the best interest of kids, schools, and sports overall. And I really hope more kids speak up, because they’ve been left with enough messes of the previous generations’ to clean up and they are entitled to stand up for themselves and be heard.

    • Nice comment Annie– The part about the heat
      has been either overlooked or ignored.
      I hope other towns follow suit.
      I know it’s not binding, but at least if this
      goes to the public and the public comes back with
      a resounding NO , we won’t have people
      claiming there are just a few “vocal” opponents.
      Let’s just get it on the record…
      I see here that those opposed to the poison field
      want a vote.
      Those who are for it want the will of the people
      to remain ambiguous.
      I don’t actually wonder why.

    • This is quite a long comment and one that is difficult to find any new information on. It really is too bad that West Tisbury has decided to keep fracturing our community when there are other issues to be concerned with. The chemical aisle in the grocery store, the landscapers and their chemicals along with the farmers on the island will do more damage than this field ever will.

      • bob— It seems you are essentially saying that
        since there are chemicals available for ignorant
        homeowners to use, we can just trash the whole
        island.
        Sounds like a straw man argument to me.

    • You see, this comment is exactly why this shouldn’t go to town meeting votes. Your comments have nothing to do with the project being planned here. 1. They aren’t using crumb rubber as an infill so your “burning feet” comment is not at all true. The vast increase in temps on this proposed field aren’t as you state here. Those temps you refer to are on crumb rubber fields, not fields using the pine infill as planned here. 2. I love your comment, “properly informs voters of the cons and supposed pros of turf.” Why didn’t you say supposed cons and pros of turf? Answer, because you are bias. You are trying to stack the deck with untruths that people who read this will believe, and then not do the right thing and research for themselves the information available on the MVC website. 3. The field has a chain of custody requirement to be recycled, it will not land in a landfill. The backing is weaved, making it 100% recyclable. 4. The voter base will not be fully informed because they aren’t going to go on the MVC website and read all the evidence that actually contradicts everyone of your statements. The MVC commissioners were required to read, listen to testimony, and review all testing results. I will go on record that not no more than maybe 5%, and that is likely too high, of the people in the town of West Tisbury knows everything there is to know about this project and can not cast a truly educated vote. They will read the comments, like the comments you made here, and not vote on exactly what this project is, thus, casting a vote without really knowing the facts and believing the untruths the opposition, like yourself, has been spreading. Where as, the All Island MVC did exactly that, and voted to approve the project, key point “ALL ISLAND MVC”. I don’t like that just because you lost at every level you keep trying to change the rules, sounds a lot like the last presidential election where Trump tried to change the laws after the legal votes where cast. The MVC votes being the legal votes cast. Did you support what Trump did? If not, why are you trying to do it here?

  2. I have been involved in this process for ten years and the frustation is profound.
    People make statements without evidence or chose to ignore the actual evidence presented by scientists because it is contrary to their opinions.

  3. Bravo, to You Annie!
    Bravo!
    Dirt is what made us healthy as kids!
    Lol! True!
    We ate it! Loved it.
    Plastic- no thanks!
    Too much plastic in our bodies already.
    micro plastics- anyone??

    • Please tell us your feelings on the melted crumb rubber track. Are you for this portion of the project just as long as you get a grass field inside it? Will you attack the crumb rubber as hard as you have the synthetic grass?

    • Beka
      The turf field material was found to have 10 parts per trillion(ppt) of PFAS.
      Data compiled by TetraTech analyzing waste water from the airport treatment plant showed the amount of PFAS found per gallon times 330 gallons per day for a 3 bedroom septic system times 365 days
      was over fifty million parts per trillion per year.
      Which do you think puts the ground water more at risk, one field or all of the uslands septic systems?

  4. I think they may.
    Why wouldn’t they?
    If the track needs help. Help it. Right?
    It takes a village to build a community to build strong children we want to see fly off MV and soar into the world.
    You all need to start working together.
    I have grandchildren on MV coming up through the ranks … well.. now.
    GET IT TOGETHER.
    Or step away.

  5. I want to thank everyone for chiming in on this. It is exactly the kind of (relatively) reasoned debate our Founders wanted citizens to engage in, as – to quote victorious Civil War General and 18th U.S. President Ulysses S Grant in his 1875 speech to the Army of the Tennessee – a “sovereign people” who can only preserve our own liberty through being educated: meaning properly informed and not susceptible to incomplete, false, and/or biased information. It honestly is too bad that turf is toxic, and that its creators didn’t plan ahead for cataclysmic climate change; but who did? Collective independent and critical thinking will be this nation’s saving grace, if we can reclaim it. The criteria for such independent thought? A) Will you call out members of your own team if they’re willfully ignoring the facts? B) Are you open to new (truthful) information? And c) Are you aware of your own biases and the degree to which they may prevent you from changing your mind about something – especially in the face of mounting evidence? This conversation is what integrity in action looks like to me.

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