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Is the Fields of Dreams Plan A Good Idea?

Patch presents two opposing views on the artificial turf field issue.

The has been the focus of over the last few months, including .

Under the proposal, the Board of Education would cede 51 percent of its control over the football fields at Parsippany’s two high schools to the township so that Open Space Trust Fund monies could be used to pay for improvements to the fields. The improvements would include the installation of new artificial turf fields, refurbishing track ovals, fencing and modernized lighting. 

The plan envisioned thus far would use $4.5 million in bonds to pay for the project, and that money would be paid back from the trust fund over the next 15 years.

Patch invited two residents with differing views to present their perspectives on the topic.

Michael Pietrowicz, a Little Vikings football volunteer and the father of a  Parsippany Hills High football player, says installing turf fields at the high schools will be beneficial to the kids and to the town.

For many years, people have been trying to modernize our high school fields. Our town is really, really fortunate to have some of the best recreational facilities in Northern Jersey but our high school fields are “sub-standard” and, therefore, used infrequently. We want to find a way to get them to meet the standards of other fields and make them safer so they also can be used for things like boys and girls’ soccer, girls’ field hockey, softball and baseball practices, band practices and band competitions. The tracks are sub-standard – we can’t host competitions – and need to be replaced over the next few years.

 

Plus, the fields cost a lot to maintain. They are an asset that is substandard. The town is looking to work with the board of education to use existing tax dollars. It’s not a new tax. The 2006 voter-approved referendum permits up to 40% of the funds to be used for renovation and construction of parks and recreational sites. This is a no-brainer.

There are shared services agreements throughout New Jersey. Those things need to be developed and negotiated. This is a way for the town and the board of education to work together to make improvements to the board of education’s assets. Will there be other people using the field when the schools are not? Yes, but that is not the goal of this. Rational people can come up with rational rules.

We have great facilities and a lot of demand. The driving force is that Parsippany is the largest town in Morris County. Every town in the county has the “standard” of play–we don’t.

No one discounts people’s concerns. There is a huge enthusiastic group of people who support this. For those people who have quality of life concerns, I respect those.

There’s a lot of good to be done. Not a lot of bad things can happen. It will actually save money for the schools in maintenance costs and not having to bus kids to other locations.

The polls support it. The voters supported it. I can’t wait for the day we cut the ribbon.

Julia Peterson of the Parsippany Historic Preservation Advisory Committee says turf fields are not an appropriate use of open space funds.

“Open space” suggests an area which allows a wide range of activities, from sitting and watching, to unstructured, active play: a public place of respite from traffic and noise.  As our town urbanizes, public open spaces disappear but they become more important for all citizens.

This is why I am so concerned about a decision to use open space trust fund monies to construct artificial turf fields at the two high schools.  The debate may seem like it is just beginning, but it has been conducted over the last year between the various sports clubs, the Recreation Advisory Committee and the Mayor’s office. There are really two questions: First, is this an appropriate way to use our Open Space Trust Fund? Second: Are artificial turf fields a wise educational investment for our high school athletic fields?  And the debate about these two questions deserves to be a public debate.

In Parsippany, between 63 and 65 cents of every tax dollar already go to the school district. We devote two cents of every dollar to the Open Space Trust Fund. That decision was made in 1989, when voters established the first open space fund in Morris County.  In 2006, a referendum allows a portion of the fund to be used for park maintenance and historic preservation purposes. Decisions about the use of Open Space funding are made by a committee of four citizens and three representatives of the town government. They make recommendations about which properties should be placed on the Reserve Open Space Inventory list and considered for purchase.

Once a property is placed on the ROSI, negotiations can begin for its purchase. Generally, open space land remains minimally developed, so it can remain a “green space” promoting conservation and connections to the natural environment.

It is difficult to understand how an artificial turf field promotes any connections to the natural world.  Once developed, land cannot be returned to its natural state. In the case of an artificial turf field, this is enhanced by the shredded tire rubber underlayment, which leaches pollutants into the groundwater and, when the field needs to be replaced (in 10-15 years) must be disposed of in a special landfill, at costs presently of around $200,000. 

The term “trust fund” implies a legacy. You may remember a time where there was much more open space available. It was informal open space: a field or woods where kids could play, or you could walk your dog, and no one minded.  These spaces are mostly gone, and we miss them.  Open space funds will be crucial in preserving the few undeveloped areas we still have in town.  Let’s think carefully before we use them to make more artificial turf fields (there are already three in town.)  And if we need to improve the high school tracks and fields, let’s figure out a way to pay for them that doesn’t compromise the legacy of open space and historic preservation in Parsippany-Troy Hills.

Candice Aloisio January 26, 2012 at 05:01 PM
The main users of the fields will be the players enrolled in the high schools sports programs year round. Field Hockey, Soccer, Football, Track and Marching Band in the Summer and Fall; Track in the Winter, and Track in the Spring. I would also presume that off season practicing would be expanded for school athletes. Including the PE programs year round, I expect it may be difficult to share the space with the town. My only reservation with this project is how will we be able to share the space with the town (51%) and still respect the neighborhoods' right to quite enjoyment and a reasonable curfew. I doubt the Parsippany Soccer Club will get much use of the fields at all. They run a Columbus Day Tournament once a year that is very large and these fields will be very useful for them at that time but the high school programs will have priority.
Candice Aloisio January 26, 2012 at 05:12 PM
More than 20% of our games and practices were cancelled due to poor field conditions. Practicing improves play regardless of the surface, however if you cancel practices it becomes difficult to play at your best. I witnessed games this Fall that should have been cancelled for safety reasons and injuries occurred that could have been avoided. It's about creating safe, USABLE space and turfing provides that. And by the way, it may be a game for you, but for some of these student athletes, excelling is a way to pay less for a college education.
North Vale January 28, 2012 at 05:19 AM
Bob... lets get the facts straight... are you running for mayor, council or BOE? It would be nice to know if you are a concerned neighbor or a politician? And when you yelled so much at the AD at a recent phs football game in front of all the kids and parents, was that concerned irate parent or something else? let us know
Bob Crawford January 28, 2012 at 01:05 PM
North Vale To answer your question. I haven't decided if I will run for office again and if I do decide to do so what office I might run for. If I do run, it will be because I believe that I can bring an independent and informed voice to the discusiions and decisions that must be rendered by our elected officials to protect the interests of all Parsippany residents. In the meantime I will, under my actual name, continue to comment on issues that I believe are important. Thanks for asking
Tom Wyka January 28, 2012 at 09:37 PM
When the topic fits - Yes - "North Vale" - I will mention just about any example of abuse of power and waste of tax dollars. Is either of those issues a sore point to you? It sure should be to every taxpaying citizens of the town. Here - I'll throw the website link in just since you mentioned it... http://parsippany.patch.com/articles/mayor-only-approached-one-web-designer-for-new-22000-site Have a nice day! ;-)
North Vale January 29, 2012 at 02:45 AM
simple answer.. the township can not... all the parks/fields are green acres, which is state money, so every resident of nj has to be allowed access to the location. but the the fields at the school can be limited as this is not green acres money everyone is talking about
North Vale January 29, 2012 at 03:02 AM
The report that you refer to also puts as much blame on the Mayor as council. And I actually agree with you on how much of a f'up this was.. but I really think you do yourself more harm than good by just bringing it up over and over.. The same with the web.. the admin is permited by law to obtain services with out bid, right or wrong... so why not find some items that you could do better for parsippany and use that as a platform.
North Vale January 29, 2012 at 03:05 AM
When you yelled so much at the AD at a recent phs football game in front of all the kids and parents was that an example of you being independent and bringing your informed voice to the discussions and decisions that must be rendered by our elected officials to protect the interests of all Parsippany residents or something else? let us know
Bob Crawford January 29, 2012 at 03:24 AM
North Vale You raise some interesting questions about the potential use of the two high school fields. As I understand the FOD proponents' funding plan ,which the Mayor appears to have bought into, they would like the costs of turfing the field to be covered by tax revenues in the Open Space Trust Fund. To be able to use those funds the Municipality needs to first secure 51% "control" over the fields from the BOE. If and when that is done then the permit issuance model that is used at Veterans, Smith and Janrone can be implented which allows the Municipality to "sell" access to the fields. The current model provides for access to be sold to residents and non residents alike which is why those fields are in use seven days a week and late into the evening. The Mayor has promised that he would explain the usage model he has in mind but to date has not done so. That is also the reason why the three currently turfed fields, which are essentially sports stadiums and not parks are located in an industrial park and off Route 46 away from residences and neighborhoods.
North Vale January 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM
I will stop harping on the PHS incident , because I was not there and only heard how irate you were and did not witness it. And I am sure as a parent concerned about safety you just lost your cool... So moving on; Why not just limit access to the school fields by only scheduling township residents and small local groups to those fields and leaving the bigger and non resident events to smith, jannerone and Vets? If the school fields were limited to practices etc..where most parents just drop off their kids or car pool a few over for baby sitting service, the noise and traffic would be limited. I know the guy at the Recreation Dept and since he took over he definitely changed the way business is done by making sure the residents always come first. So it seems to be a pretty simple solution.
Maurice Saunders January 29, 2012 at 02:42 PM
North Vale, I agree with your point about limited access to the scheduling of the school and township residents to the high school fields. Bob, you are right about the making sure the Mayor and the Town Council provide answers. I'm in favor of the FOD project but at the same time I want to make sure all questions are answered and my fellow Parsippany residents concerns are addressed.
Bob Crawford January 29, 2012 at 03:15 PM
North Vale Thank you Your suggestion regarding the usage of the school fields would be a reasonable place to start the conversation with the Mayor. That assumes that a constructive and public discussion will occur with regard to other issues including: (1) Funding (Are our tax dollars in the Open Space Trust an appropriate, wise and legal source of funding to turf two high school two fields?) (2) Scheduling (Can the interests of all student teams and the Band be accounted for as the school district will be required to give up 51% control over its own two fields?) (3) Safety (Aside from the information from the FOD proponents, has the BOE conducted an independent study to evaluate the safety of student athletes playing on a turfed field?) (4) Alternative Options ( Rather than spending millions of tax dollars to turf the two high school fields has an analysis been conducted to determine if the fields currently controlled by the town can be used in a more efficient manner even if that means excluding non Parsippany teams from using Parsippany fields?) (5)Environmental Analysis (Has an analysis been conducted to detemine what potential impact the turf fields will have regarding drainage problems to surrounding residences and how will the introduction of light towers affect the quality of life for the neighborhoods surrounding Parsippany Hills High School?). Just a few of the issues that need to be addressed and worked through by the Mayor and town residents.
Carolyn Warner January 30, 2012 at 06:05 AM
Actually, your point about Parsippany High School being kept in very good condition is false. Yes the field may be better than ours, but their track is a ruins to the point where the past spring season they practiced at OUR (The Hills) track many times. Therefore, with this field of dreams project ALSO refurbishing the track as well this is certaintly beneficial to both schools. Regarding the track season, neither schools have the right equipped track to host any county meets, resulting in money being shoveled into buses traveling to farther schools that do, every time we need to have to have one these.
Carolyn Warner January 30, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Okay so as a student athelete at the Hills and after reading this quite a few times, I cannot believe some of the issues actually being brought up in disagreement here. First, I would like to point out that from my understanding there seems to be some personal issues being brought up with members on the board not doing their job correctly? well, can we not use this project as a way to voice our feelings on this, and can we maybe stick to the actual cause. Second, if turf fields were a dangerous thing professional teams around the world would not be using them. A lot of things are dangerous and can cause cancer, its life. Third, i am APPAULED at how many times this "field of dreams" is being referred to as a football field, where as soccer, field hockey, baseball and softball, marching band will all use it too. Since most of you aren't athletes, it is also unfair to make the assumption playing on grass and turf are the same. It is infact completely different, which is why our sports teams are at a complete DISADVANTAGE when we travel and play at almost every other school in our conference with turf. I don't know why anyone would want to limit the success of Parsippany atheletes? I feel like the students' beliefs are not being taken into the account they should be. Does it not matter that EVERY athlete in both high schools are for this project? On behalf of all my friends, YES THE FIELD OF DREAMS PLAN is a GOOD idea.
Dr. David Frankel January 31, 2012 at 04:05 AM
The San Francisco Planning Department released a report which contains information on particulate SBR crumb. The report reveals that; - SBR contains over 400 different chemicals, carcinogens, and heavy metals including lead, - 8 chemicals appear on the California Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer, - 5 of these gave increased lifetime cancer risks. Materials in SBR were added to the OEHHI list of substances known to cause cancer based on the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IARC) of the WHO. After installing over 90 synthetic athletic fields, New York City has unconditionally chosen to ban SBR crumb for public health considerations. The cash strapped Los Angeles Unified School District is in the middle of a serious budget crisis, and yet they have also banned this material stating, “The health of our students is more important than any other issue. “ “SBR Tire Crumb is known to contain a number of VOCs, SVOCs (including benzothiazoles, aniline, and phenols), and metals (including barium, chromium, lead, manganese, and zinc). Dr. D. Barry Boyd, Oncologist at the Yale Cancer Center, said, ” Because artificial turf playing fields are disproportionately used by children and adolescents, these childhood exposures to environmental carcinogens may add to lifelong risk of cancer as well as the exposures to the many respiratory irritants and toxicants found off-gassing from these fields.”
Bob Crawford January 31, 2012 at 11:52 AM
For the time being let's put aside the still unanswered questions about legality, funding and usage as they relate to the Field of Dreams proposal and focus on the most important issue of all which is safety. Dr. David Frankel's comments raise a number of questions which need to be addressed by the BOE and the Municipality. Have either of those entities conducted a comprehensive and indepnedent analysis of just how safe turfed fields will actually be for the athletes who will play on them and for the neighborhoods that will surround them. If so what were the results? If not why not? . .
Maurice Saunders January 31, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Those are some good questions to ask especially when it comes to the safety our students and the environment. However, let's not forget that our athletes plays on turf fields now when they travel to other schools or practice/play on the turf fields already in our town. I'm sure for every analysis written on how bad turfs fields are there are analysis reports on the benefits since turfs fields are implored in towns, high schools, colleges and professional stadiums around the world. Surely, let's raise these type of questions, but let's not go too far off tangent here.
Beth Bluj January 31, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Maybe we should postpone this week's Super Bowl, being played on turf, until an independent study is done? Mr. Saunders is correct - kids/adults/pros play on turf all the time. SUPER BOWL XLVI MARKS SECOND TIME THAT NFL CHAMPIONSHIP WILL BE DECIDED ON FIELDTURF Super Bowl XLVI to be played on FieldTurf at Lucas Oil Stadium; both New England Patriots and New York Giants play home games on FieldTurf MONTREAL (January 26, 2012) - The New England Patriots and New York Giants will face off in Super Bowl XLVI, set to take place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Sunday, February 5. The stadium’s surface is FieldTurf, and the event marks the second time the Super Bowl will be played on FieldTurf (also Super Bowl XL at Detroit’s Ford Field). Both the Patriots (Gillette Stadium) and Giants (MetLife Stadium) play their home games on FieldTurf. These same two teams played in Super Bowl XLIII when the Giants won the Lombardi Trophy and ended the Patriots’ hope for an undefeated season. With the rematch set to take place on the FieldTurf in Indianapolis, this year’s Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated championship games in recent memory.
Beth Bluj January 31, 2012 at 03:12 PM
“It’s going to be a special week for FieldTurf, with the Patriots and Giants each practicing on the FieldTurf at both Lucas Oil Stadium and at the University of Indianapolis leading up to the Super Bowl,” said FieldTurf President Eric Daliere. “Of course, both of those teams play their home games on FieldTurf. To not only have the game played on FieldTurf, but to have the two Super Bowl participants be long-time FieldTurf supporters, it means a lot to our company and is a major source of pride for each and every FieldTurf employee. We wish both the Giants and Patriots the best of luck and hope for yet another classic game between these two teams.” The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) releases their ranking of NFL stadium fields every two years. For the tenth consecutive year, FieldTurf emerged as the leader among all artificial turf brands in the 2010 NFL Players Playing Surfaces Opinion Survey. An impressive three out of the league’s top four artificial surfaces were FieldTurf fields. Of the 31 NFL stadium fields rated by the players, FieldTurf's Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, was ranked as the league’s best artificial surface for the second consecutive time. This marked the fifth consecutive survey and the tenth year in a row that one of FieldTurf’s fields has owned the top position as the best artificial surface in the NFL.
Beth Bluj January 31, 2012 at 03:12 PM
The Patriots and Giants have had tremendous success playing their home games on FieldTurf. New England quarterback Tom Brady boasts an impressive 41-6 record at Gillette Stadium since the installation of FieldTurf – a remarkable .872 winning percentage. “It's (FieldTurf) always nice,” said Brady in a 2006 press conference. “I think the quarterbacks like it (FieldTurf) because you can plant really well. It's different than playing out there in our (old) sand pit because you can dig in and push off. I think everybody really likes the surface.” Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown for 4845 yards, 30 touchdowns, and only 18 interceptions since moving to the new stadium in 2010. Both of these stars will look to continue their success on FieldTurf at Lucas Oil Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. Super Bowl XL was held on the FieldTurf at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, and marked the first time that the NFL’s championship game was played on an infilled artificial surface. In that game, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10.
4kidsproductions January 31, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Curious... How much (lets just use the Hills for this instance) would it cost to: 1. Dig up the football field and actually "clean it up" and make it outstanding using real grass, leveling it, taking out all the rock, adding the proper irrigation? 2. Put new lights and a new track around this newly formed grass field? 3. Dig up the "middle fields" (baseball/softball/soccer fields) and add irrigation and clean fill (no rocks) and new grass? 4. Add a locker (home and visitor) field house so the players don't have to spend 1/2 their halftime walking back and forth to the school (up/down all those steps)? 5. Dig up and clean up the lower field (near the tennis courts), making it a nice useable field with no rocks and such? *next thought* I have nothing against soccer, and I am actually involved in soccer, but all these fields around town every one talks are filled with soccer fields. I can't even bring my kids to one of these fields to shoot around because I am not allowed to be on them cause some team is using them. Same goes for the baseball/softball fields. Where are all the parks and fields that "every day johnny" can go play without worrying about being kicked off because Team so and so has the fields for the time? Why not use some of this Open Space money and buy some of that land sitting back off of Sylvan Way for more fields, parks (with playground equipment- modeled after Denville), a track to walk around, etc???
Candice Aloisio January 31, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I was glad to see some research information posted on this topic - thank you Dr. Frankel. However, I was really disappointed that the information cited was rather outdated. The article that the Dr. referenced with regard to California and New York banning of the SBR crumb was from June, 2009. The article also stated that there are alternatives such as FlexSand (designed using materials deemed safe by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission) that can be used as the "infill" instead of the SBR crumb. While slightly more costly (~$92,000), the use of FlexSand may be safer so I'm happy to go that route. It should also be noted that back in 2008 the lead scare for turf fields prompted all turf fields in NJ to be tested for lead. Parsippany's fields did not contain lead but there were fields in other towns that were replaced due to lead content. I presume all new installations would be expected to be lead-free. Here's the link so you can read for yourselves. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/2009-06-10-artificial-turf_N.htm
Jennifer McNulty January 31, 2012 at 03:45 PM
>>I have nothing against soccer, and I am actually involved in soccer, but all these fields around town every one talks are filled with soccer fields. I can't even bring my kids to one of these fields to shoot around because I am not allowed to be on them cause some team is using them. Same goes for the baseball/softball fields. Where are all the parks and fields that "every day johnny" can go play without worrying about being kicked off because Team so and so has the fields for the time? Why not use some of this Open Space money and buy some of that land sitting back off of Sylvan Way for more fields, parks (with playground equipment- modeled after Denville), a track to walk around, etc???<< I wonder about this same exact issue. The town either uses Township money, Open Space Funds, Green Acres Funds or other ways to finance land purchases then leases exclusive rights to these fields to private organizations. Just as one example, the Park Road Softball complex, it is town land that has been exclusively leased to the PTWLL organization. You, I nor our kids can go play on those fields even when there is not a game going on. The Township has given the rights to these fields to about 750 kids and taken it away from over 50,000 other Parsippany residents. This is not the only case, Parsippany has leased fields to private organizations all over Town. The amount of these leases??? $1.00 per year.
Beth Bluj January 31, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Jennifer - I must disagree with your statement regarding the Park Road Complex. My son and his friends played on both the fields at the Park Road Complex every single summer day for most of their younger years. It was their 'Sandlot' for the better part of four years. No one from the town or the PTWLL ever came and kicked them off or told them they were not allowed to play there. Some of their fondest memories in years to come will be that field.
Jennifer McNulty January 31, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Beth, I do not know the years you are referencing but I am correct. The Township Police have kicked off my sons and their friends as recently as this past summer. There is a large sign right at the entrance to the Park that says the PTWLL has exclusive rights to the fields. I have called the Parks and Forestry Dept and they stated that those Fields are NOT open to the Public.
Monica Sclafani January 31, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I would love to see the fields at both high schools turfed, but I don't see the point of any further discussion until the Mayor and/or the Town Council decides whether or not open space funds can or will be used. There is a great deal of opposition to using these funds. I haven't heard a definite yes or no to that question yet. I would hate to see the BoE or TC spend manpower and money on independent analysis of a project that could not move forward because it was decided the funds could not be used.
Beth Bluj February 02, 2012 at 01:16 PM
To read more of what the experts have to say regarding synthetic turf and: VOCS/PAHS, Dermal Contact, Air Quality, Water Quality, Crumb Rubber, Ingestion/Inhalation, Lead Chromate, MRSA/STAPH and Athlete Safety, please refer to the FAQ section on the Fields of Dreams Website at: http://parsippanyfieldsofdreams.org/
TJ Ritter March 26, 2012 at 01:31 AM
http://parsippany.patch.com/articles/fod-walking-tour-scheduled-for-sunday#comments_list www,parsippanyunite.com FYI, there were no "FOD" members/supporters at this walkthrough today (3/25/12). It was very informative. We saw things that needed repair, saw things that probably did not need repair and saw things that raised more questions about the scope of work. The press was there and we would have loved to have had the "FOD" members/supporters there so we could discuss the project.
parpardon May 16, 2012 at 01:22 AM
I wanted to publicly apologize for any rude comments I may have made. I have come to terms with my issues and realized I have been way out of line with some of my comments. I look forward to working together to form a better future for Parsippany children. Once again please accept my apologiy and I promise to not revert back to my old ways.
Tom Wyka May 16, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Hmmm. Well OK - but given you're completely anonymous - I'm not quite sure why it matters....But if it makes ya feel better...more power to ya.

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