Petitioners hope to mow plastic grass plans

Chris Van Dyk (of Citizens for More Important Things fame) dropped off a petition with over 1,000 signatures at City Hall supporting a ballot measure banning artificial turf fields.

Read my story below…

Island may vote to ban plastic fields
By Tristan Baurick

The island’s turf war over turf could soon spark a new battle in the ballot box.

A group of citizens concerned about artificial turf’s environmental impacts submitted 1,100 signatures this week petitioning the city for a November ballot measure banning fake grass on island sports fields.

“Artificial fields are the equivalent of grinding up all your plastic shopping bags, dumping them in a city park, and letting the granules wash into Puget Sound,” said Chris Van Dyk, petition gatherer and head of the island-based Plastic Fields ForNever.

The proposed measure, which is undergoing review by the city, would also impose a half-cent tax for every dollar spent on retail goods to fund the maintenance and rehabilitation of natural sports fields. Funding for each field would not exceed $700,000 per year, according to the petition.

While the city has made no decision on the legitimacy of the petition, Van Dyk said his group obtained about 100 more signatures than is required under municipal guidelines.

Typically composed of plastic fiber and rubber, artificial turf can harm players and leach toxins into groundwater, according to Van Dyk, who has led high-profile efforts in Seattle opposing public financing for professional sports facilities.

Over the last few years, Van Dyk has teamed with island environmentalists who oppose the construction of two artificial turf soccer fields slated for Battle Point Park and Bainbridge High School’s Memorial Field.

Both projects have the strong backing of the Bainbridge Island Youth Soccer Club. With over 1,200 playing members, the club has long struggled to provide enough fields for the island’s growing number of cleated feet.

“There is just not enough capacity on the island for all of the activities going on now,” said BIYSC president John Sloat. “Mr. Van Dyk and his team are condemning our children to inadequate facilities.”

The dearth of fields means many island soccer players practice and host matches at facilities in North and Central Kitsap, where a handful of new artificial fields are under construction to meet growing demands in Silverdale and Poulsbo.

Sloat says artificial fields are safe and require much less maintenance than grass fields. They can also withstand about six times the use, allowing teams to play year-round and in poor weather.

Providing adequate playing facilities helps island youths avoid drugs, teen pregnancy and obesity while boosting academic performance, Sloat said, citing numerous studies.

But opponents of artificial turf point to plenty of studies backing their position that plastic fields can cause lead poisoning and other ills.

“From New Jersey to South Korea, fields are getting closed down left and right,” Van Dyk said.

The petition comes at a time when Bainbridge public officials and city staff are increasingly giving serious consideration to arguments against artificial turf.

The $1 million Battle Point project was stalled last week when the city planning department required the Bainbridge park district to provide additional assurances that the artificial turf fields would not foul groundwater.

On Wednesday, the City Council deferred approval of $300,000 earmarked last year to help pay for the Battle Point fields.

Council Chair Bill Knobloch commended the petitioners for their efforts.

“I’m very impressed they got eleven hundred signatures,” he said. “They’re leading the way and showing how to get things done. I think this is an excellent way to resolve the issue.”

2 thoughts on “Petitioners hope to mow plastic grass plans

  1. The proposal is a tax increase cloaked in environmental sheep’s clothing. A prohibition on “artificial turf” would be one thing but this is a business disincentive. This will be floated at the same time COBI/Parks want to float a $10,000,000 open-space bond and we face a variety of new taxes/rate increases.

    I for one do not support a tax increase for this preference vote of playing surfaces. Will it take 8 years to resolve this matter like it has taken for us to still not have a Waterfront Park public lav?

    Enough is enough on the taxes.

  2. The Battle Point soccer fields are a disgrace. As islanders, most of us pride ourselves on having great facilities for youth. Great schools, great pool, yet the kids here still play soccer in gravel.

    What a shame.

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