MVC should thoroughly review field project


To the Editor:

The Field Fund prefers to focus on the benefits and feasibility of grass playing fields, and the work our nonprofit does to support natural playing surfaces on the Island. We wish we had good news to share now, but we don’t. 

For more than eight years, a 5-4 majority on the MVRHS School Committee has continued its push to pave and plasticize 2-plus acres of soil and grass over the Island’s sole-source aquifer.

  • They didn’t stop when scientists (including the one who discovered PFAS in firefighter turnout gear) found that plastic fields contain — and leach — PFAS “forever” chemicals. 
  • They didn’t stop when their hired consultant was found to have repeatedly misled the Island about a still-nonexistent recycling plant in the U.S. 
  • They didn’t stop when more than 30 local environmental organizations submitted public testimony expressing concerns about the proposed plastic field. 
  • They didn’t stop when a national news team reported that the industry-funded scientist who was being privately paid to testify on behalf of their proposal had overstated her work for the EPA, and downplayed the known risks associated with PFAS. 
  • They didn’t stop when the NFL Players Association demanded grass playing fields due to safety concerns, as U.S. Men’s and Women’s Soccer had done previously. 
  • They didn’t stop when peer-reviewed studies came out indicating higher risk of concussion, lower-extremity injury, and plastic pollution from plastic fields, or when the world continued to hit record temperatures, experience increasingly extreme weather, and exceed planetary boundaries for chemical pollution. 
  • They didn’t stop when four of the six towns voted last spring to stop this effort. 
  • And they didn’t stop when the Oak Bluffs planning board denied their proposed plastic field due to the threat it posed to the town’s water supply within a designated Water Resource Protection Overlay District. 

In fact, the School Committee majority doubled down and sued, arguing not that the field was actually safe, but that the town had no authority to enforce its own groundwater protections under the so-called Dover Amendment, an outdated law that was enacted before the Environmental Protection Agency was even established. A sympathetic state Land Court judge agreed with them, and a 3-2 majority on the Oak Bluffs Select Board objected to the planning board’s appeal. The school committee submitted a demolition application signed by the superintendent — without the high school principal’s knowledge or consent, without approval from the M.V. Commission, and without the funds to complete the project, or even the demolition. 

Where does this leave us? The costs have been astronomical. Hundreds of thousands of tax dollars have been spent on this misguided effort. Countless hours of school committee meetings have been focused on it, rather than other educational priorities. The high school principal has warned that this ongoing drama runs the very real risk of jeopardizing the high school’s “golden ticket,” a Massachusetts School Building Authority funding opportunity toward the new school building. And now, due to the precedential value of this decision, it means that Oak Bluffs, and every other town in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, has diminished authority to protect its own natural resources when schools, educational nonprofits, and/or religious institutions are involved. This is the legacy of our MVRHS School Committee majority, and those who have enabled their efforts.

Is there any way to stop this runaway train? The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s approval for this project has expired. Given the significant advancements in science and new information that have emerged since its original vote, it would be beyond irresponsible for the commission to rubber-stamp an extension without reopening the record and holding public hearings. That said, given the amount of pressure the school committee majority and their surrogates apply to those who stand in the way of the plastic field — and how the commission, charged with protecting the Island’s waters, natural resources, and rural character, betrayed its mission by narrowly approving a massive plastic field in the first place — we should not take anything for granted. 

We wrote to the commission requesting a thorough review of all new information. Now is the time for your voices to be heard. 


Mollie Doyle, Dardanella Slavin, Rebekah Thomson
The Field Fund