Mayor James Barberio is slated to make a presentation before the Parsippany Board of Education at the body's public session Thursday night. The subject: the controversial plan to use Open Space Trust Fund money to install artificial turf athletic fields at Parsippany and Parsippany Hills high schools.
The Fields of Dreams project has been in the works since spring. The Recreation Advisory Committee, a panel made up of area officials and youth sports organization leaders, came up with an idea to do improvements at the school fields including putting in new turf fields, modernized lighting and new track ovals.
Several issues must be considered before the ambitious idea can move ahead, among them:
- Whether turf fields are an appropriate expenditure during tough economic times or in the face of the many still essentially homeless or close to it because of Irene's floods.
- Whether the Board of Education would have to give up ownership of the high school fields so that open space dollars could be used to fund the program (use of open space funds means no new tax increase).
- Whether the township really can afford what's estimated to be a $4.5 million project.
- Whether this matter should be decided in a public voter referendum.
Sports leaders and the high schools' booster clubs are making a case to win support for the proposal.
The RAC's Fields of Dreams website argues a turf field is easier and less expensive to maintain than a field of grass. The savings, it says, could be as much as $70,000 per year over the projected 10-year lifespan of a turf field. And the fields would be of more service to the schools and the township, because turf fields can handle much more wear and tear than a grass surface.
As it stands, the high school fields get relatively little use—only football games, limited band practice and graduation. Supporters say turf fields would be usable by just about every sports team.
The RAC also points to testimony from medical professionals showing that artificial turf is safer than grass and shows a reduction in injuries suffered by student athletes on traditional turf fields.
Barberio said his presentation will tell residents all they need to know about the project.
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