Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Alderman Lafuente Speaks Out!

Alderman Lafuente speaks the truth! Below is Alderman Lafuente's post on artificial turf (link and text). We thank him for publicly speaking out about this important issue.


Why I’m opposed to Artificial Turf at Lincoln Park

Lincoln_Air_photoWEB.jpgI’m opposed to the Administration’s plan to install artificial turf at the fields at Lincoln Park. This is a somewhat contentious issue and both sides are passionate about their points of view, and both make good arguments for their positions.
I’ve received lots of correspondence from people both in favor and against – and that’s a credit to the sense of community we have in Somerville.
Though I’m sympathetic to arguments from those in favor of artificial turf, and I know they have the best interests of everyone at heart, I’m against artificial turf for the following reasons:
Heat & the Environment - The heat-absorbing properties of artificial turf make it unhealthy to play on during hot weather. Temperatures on the artificial turf can be up to 20 degrees higher than grass. And studies have shown synthetic turf can be as much as 37 degrees higher than air temperature. Somerville gets very hot for much of the year, especially during times when fields are used the most and this is a health hazard to our children and others using the fields.
Health and Safety – There are numerous health and safety concerns with artificial turf.  Crumb rubber infill in artificial turf fields can get into eyes, noses, and mouths, causing people to ingest cancer-causing chemicals. In fact, the EPA has found 30 chemicals in artificial turf and has advised further study to determine risks. None of the studies that are offered to show artificial turf is safe look at long-term impacts, and they rarely involve young children. 
Green Space – Somerville is a highly-densely populated city and we need to strive for more green space throughout the city - and that includes our playing fields. Once we make a field artificial, there’s no going back to grass. Once installed, artificial turf will kill any living organism in the subsoil and make it extremely difficult to grow grass on that area in the future.
Cost: Despite claims that artificial turf requires low long-term maintenance costs, I’m not convinced that artificial turf provides the cost savings that proponents suggest. Effective maintenance of artificial turf is demanding and costly. It must be regularly vacuumed to remove dust, dirt, pollen, skin cells, and a host of other debris. Weeds that grow through the turf must be removed and there are a host of other maintenance issues. 
Aside from this specific debate though, Somerville clearly needs more green space and fields for our kids and adults alike to play on. I’ll continue to stress the importance of more green space to the Administration. I’ll also advocate for better maintenance of existing fields by the Department of Public Works.
If you have any feedback, let me know by clicking here, or send me an email. You can also post to myFacebook page here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The vagueness in the definitions in the law for open space

Somerville's zoning laws refer to "open space" without any subcategories. This vagueness in the definition of open space allow some truly bizarre equivalencies to be created. "Open space" includes grass fields, but it also includes artificial turf fields. It also includes concrete plazas and asphalt parking lots. 

Somervision requires new open space to be created in Somerville, but new parking lots would meet this goal. This would be a perversion of the intent of Somervision. Part of the rationale for having open space is for the emotional and physical well-being of the residents the city, but natural environments heal us far better than concrete open spaces. The climate (both local and global) needs to be part of the discussion as well. Grass cools; plastic heats.

The definition of "open space" in Somerville must take into account the desirability of some types of surfaces rather than others. For example, grass is better than artificial turf, while artificial turf is better than asphalt. A definition which acknowledges this might allow an artificial turf field to be installed over an asphalt roof, but would ensure grass would never be sacrificed for plastic.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sunday’s Boston Globe commemorated the 150th anniversary of Frederick Law Olmsted’s plans for Yosemite Valley. Olmsted, who designed Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace, advocated for accessibility and stewardship of nature for the benefit of all.

From Courtney Humphries' article:

Today we think of parks largely as recreational spaces and nature preserves, but in the 19th century they had a social and political mission. Government’s duty, Olmsted wrote, was to protect individual citizens’ “pursuit of happiness.” Olmsted had a longstanding belief that nature had a profound effect on people’s psychology — that it gave people pleasure and increased their capacity for happiness. But access to nature and recreation is “a monopoly, in a very peculiar manner, of a very few very rich people,” he wrote. “The great mass of society, including those to whom it would be of the greatest benefit, is excluded from it.”

This thinking led to putting Blue Hills, Middlesex Fells, and Revere Beach under state protection for public use.

Olmstead’s ideas are still valid. His “perceptions about the role of nature in well-being are still alive in a growing body of public health research," and

the Olmstedian notion of accessibility is finding a new life in people like Rebecca Stanfield McCown, acting director of the NPS Stewardship Institute in Vermont. She’s helping lead an initiative called the Urban Agenda, which aims to make better use of the National Park Service’s significant network of urban parks as a gateway into the entire system.

“If we’re not making those connections with people at home, then we’re going to be losing out on a generation of supporters and advocates for wilderness preservation,” Stanfield says. “We need to be relevant to their daily lives and not just their vacations.”

Thanks to Ms. Humphries for reminding us of the intrinsic value of green space.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Petition to Preserve the Green Space at Lincoln Park

Somerville residents are gathering signatures on a petition to prevent artificial turf from being installed on Lincoln Park. The text is below. To sign the petition, or learn more, please contact: 

Lumina Gershfield Cordova

A Petition to Preserve the Green Space at Lincoln Park - August 2015

The undersigned, as neighbors of Lincoln Park, parents of youth athletes, parents of Argenziano students, and residents of Somerville, are writing to oppose the installation of a synthetic turf athletic field in Lincoln Park, and instead request that the fields remain as grass turf. We believe that synthetic turf fields will change the character of the park and neighborhood in undesirable ways. We believe that the large number of permitted events at Lincoln Park, in the absence of a comprehensive City-wide strategy to meet current and future demand for field space, creates the appearance of a need for a synthetic turf field at Lincoln Park that has not been justified.

In particular, we believe that if a synthetic turf field is installed, the following will occur:

1. It will dramatically change the Park’s character - Lincoln Park will lose the balance of uses that
Somerville residents have enjoyed for the park’s 120-year history. Many different people – young
athletes, picnickers, toddlers, teen and adult basketball players, dog walkers, and many others – can use the park together. With the installation of a synthetic turf field, the park will become a defacto athletic facility and programming at the field will increase further, crowding out the school and community uses that give this park a unique and vibrant character.

2. There will be negative impacts on the neighborhood - Dawn to dusk athletic events will change the
surrounding neighborhood, turning one of the most densely packed and functional neighborhoods into a parking lot for an athletic facility. We feel there are an inequitable number of uses at Lincoln Park and the City has not adequately explored alternatives to the proposed artificial turf field, including reallocating uses to the other parks in the City.

3. There will be possible health risks – Regular and extended play by school children, young athletes, and residents on synthetic turf may expose them to potential health risks. While the verdict is out on the chronic health risks associated with the infill materials that are typically used on synthetic turf fields, we do not want Somerville’s children to become unwitting participants in an epidemiological study. With regard to acute health concerns, the higher temperatures on synthetic turf compared to natural grass are well documented. Installing synthetic turf poses a greater risk of heat stress to the athletes and school children that play on it during the hotter times of the day. Synthetic turf fields also contributes to the “heat island” effect in a highly urbanized area, thus contributing to global warming. There are also valid arguments to be made that synthetic turf will result in increased incidence of skin cuts and abrasions and other impact injuries. The environmental fate and potential ecological risks associated with the use of infill materials also warrant additional consideration.

4. There will be an irretrievable loss of open space and natural park land - If we lose the grass, we will lose one of the City’s largest remaining green open spaces. While there is always a temptation to fill up spaces like this one with buildings or facilities, this is not a decision that a City as densely developed as Somerville should be making lightly, especially in light of future development and growth in Union Square. Furthermore, synthetic turf fields are not consistent with the Community Preservation Act, which specifically precludes use of CPA funds to acquire artificial turf for athletic fields.

Please preserve this amazing neighborhood and city asset for Somerville’s current and future residents.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Artificial Turf is Wrong for Somerville

Somerville plans to install artificial turf on our few grass fields. Plastic fields are the wrong choice for Somerville. Bad for the environment. Bad for our health. Bad for our wallets.

Can Somerville become carbon neutral by 2050 with artificial turf? To offset the carbon from an average artificial turf field we would need to plant over 1,800 10-year-old trees. See www.somervillema.gov/sustainaville/ for Somerville’s carbon neutral plan.

What happens when it rains? Artificial turf stormwater runoff contains the algaecides, sanitizers, pesticides, antistatic agents, and chemical solvents used to care for the field. Modern conventional grass care has significantly reduced the amount of pesticides and fertilizers used. Organic grass care uses no synthetic chemicals.

What does it cost? A 2-acre artificial turf installation can cost up to $1,000,000 and will last an average of 8-10 years. Replacement costs for an artificial turf field average $500,000 and involves disposing of several tons of plastic. A high-quality grass field costs up to $350,000. How does the city plan to pay for the carpet replacement and old carpet disposal in 8-10 years? After installation, many communities discover they must restrict public access to an artificial turf field in order to protect their million dollar investment. Fencing, increased police patrols, night illumination, and security cameras create additional costs.

What’s in these fields? Crumb rubber infill in artificial turf fields gets into eyes and mouths. That means people can ingest the cancer-causing chemicals including arsenic, benzene, cadmium, and nickel that have been found in crumb rubber. The EPA found 30 chemicals in artificial turf and advises further study. Is this an experiment we want to run on our children and residents?

Is it hot? Artificial turf can be 37℉ hotter than asphalt and 86℉ hotter than grass. The maximum observed surface temperature on artificial turf was 200℉. At a temp of 122℉ it takes less than 10 minutes to cause injury to skin. NASA satellite maps of New York City showed that some of the hottest surfaces were artificial turf fields.

Why do professional athletes prefer grass? This year, Abby Wambach led 40 top female soccer players in filing a lawsuit against FIFA for using artificial turf, calling it "dangerous". 89% of NFL players surveyed felt that playing on artificial turf shortens their playing careers and 82% said it increases injury.

Grass is a living ecosystem. It provides stormwater retention, erosion control, pollutant removal, microbial activity, carbon sequestration, heat island mitigation, air and water filtration, wildlife habitat, noise reduction, psychological benefits, and oxygen generation.

Educate yourself and join Green and Open Somerville here:
web http://greenopensomerville.blogspot.com/   email greenopensomerville@gmail.com
facebook www.facebook.com/greenandopensomerville           twitter @greensomerville

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Concord's June 2015 forum on artificial turf

Our facebook page has a long but very educational video of Concord, MA's recent forum on artificial turf. It is well worth the time to watch and learn. Here is a link to our page: https://www.facebook.com/greenandopensomerville

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Synthetic turf fires

Unfortunately, when artificial turf burns, the result is a toxic brew of chemicals released into the air. The fires mentioned in the following news stories were arson, which then brings up the obvious: in order to prevent these acrid, nasty fires, which, in addition to the air pollution they cause, also cost many thousands of dollars to repair, these fields will probably be fenced and locked to prevent unauthorized access.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Creative thinking

Interesting article in the Somerville Journal regarding putting artificial turf on a hockey rink during summer months. I applaud the creativity in this idea. We need to follow Ms. Lathan's example and look to unusual places to find the recreational space we need.


Monday, May 18, 2015

Letter regarding Lincoln Park's proposed redesign

May 18, 2015

Dear Mayor Curtatone and Honorable Aldermen,

We write to you as citizens of Somerville to express our concern for the plan to install a U12 artificial turf soccer field at Lincoln Park. Lincoln Park, the largest City-owned true green space in Somerville, is a rare and critical resource in this town. The plan unveiled at the April 27th design meeting to put a U12 artificial turf field on almost half of the park does not make sense for our highly paved and impermeable city, especially in this era of global warming. We ask that you say, “Yes to grass fields only,” in Lincoln Park and work to create additional fields in the City, rather than dividing our community as we fight over the little grass that remains.

Lincoln Park is a place that you think of to have a picnic, meet up with friends, play a pick-up game, watch youth soccer, or go for a run. It is open and inviting. It is a place that creates community, a place that encourages interaction between residents.

As you know, Somerville is desperately lacking in green space. We need 125 additional acres of green and open space just to reach the National Recreation and Park Association’s recommended minimum for an urban area. Because Somerville does not differentiate between green and open space, it is impossible to put numbers on how much more green space we do need. Still, it’s safe to say that Somerville needs more green space for parks and for recreation.

Lincoln Park is overused and under-cared for. The construction of the current grass field was done improperly after the Argenziano School construction, and it shows. But this does not mean artificial turf is the answer. Given how much programming the field currently sustains, an artificial turf field may not be up to the challenge. The turf is literally falling apart at the East Somerville Community School field (just two years old) and the Capuano School field.  
If a U12 artificial turf field is installed, it will become an exclusive field for organized sports because it will be permitted to its fullest extent. It will also reduce the usability of the park. Currently, the field can be used in multiple ways at the same time: two games or many practices can coincide, orientation of the field can be changed to fit the best use, and the field can be altered to fit games for little kids or adults. An artificial turf field is not so easily altered.

Many Somerville residents are concerned about the environmental and long-term health consequences of artificial turf. Choosing to install this should be done with the full understanding of what we are doing and the potential harm it can cause, and with the knowledge that once the field is turfed over, it will never be returned to grass and that public green space will be gone forever.

Higher surface temperatures are well-documented on turf fields, and these disproportionately affect the youngest players due to their proximity to the field surface. According to a Brigham Young University study, researchers found a “shocking” difference in surface temperature between a synthetic football field and an adjacent natural grass field - an average of 117ºF vs. 78ºF. The highest temperature recorded on the artificial turf was 157ºF! These higher temperatures also exacerbate the “urban heat island effect," the term used to describe built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. The annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings (epa.gov). This is a well-documented environmental issue, known to affect microclimate and wildlife habitat. It can be mitigated with green space (like grass!) and properly selected paving materials. Somerville takes pride in our progressive attitudes about sustainability, responsible development, and quality of life, but with so little acreage that moderates this urban heat island effect, the installation of artificial turf works against these values.

When considering costs of grass and turf, the full life cycle cost must be considered. The City’s preference for artificial turf seems predicated primarily on maintenance concerns (which translate into life-cycle costs), though detailed cost data has not been presented to the public. It is important to note that the initial cost of turf is higher than grass. Furthermore, the surface of a heavily used field will need replacement every 8-10 years. One detailed analysis (forbes.com) found that the cost of turf over a 20-year period was approximately 50% more than the cost of natural grass, and other comprehensive studies have corroborated these findings. Artificial turf does not save money.

We must not rush the design process, oversimplifying the issues in an effort to move forward quickly. Some proponents of artificial turf at Lincoln Park maintain that we have had enough discussion on this topic. On the contrary, the pros and cons of grass vs. artificial turf have not been fully discussed in any public meeting. The fact that the City’s Recreational Fields Task Force recommended a natural grass field at the conclusion of the listening sessions, and has only recently reversed itself, is testimony to the difficulty of this decision. Let’s not allow impatience to result in policies that are not fully informed.

We are trading a multi-use natural park for a single-use artificial recreation field. We need more green space, not less. The answer is to find new space and we need to get creative about this. We have a wonderful opportunity in the complete reconstruction of Boynton Yards, or in Brickbottom or Assembly Square, where development is currently happening. The Powderhouse School is another opportunity to develop a recreational field, especially with the purchase offers having come in so much lower than the City had hoped. We can also look to the roofs. But we must start creating this space now while high land values give the City leverage with developers. The present and future residents of Somerville need this. Somerville is cutting edge in so many aspects; let’s get creative about the need for more green and recreational space and keep Lincoln Park natural grass and open for all.


Chris Mancini
Jason Suderman
Katherine Martin Widmer
David Turin
Jill Daniels
Keja Valens
Gina L. Foglia
Renée Scott
David Scott
Ellen (Lenni) Armstrong
Lee Erica Palmer
Dominique Stassart
Susan and Anton Tutter
James Baab
Jocelyn Kasow
Catherine Thompson
Daniel Gorn
Ewa Szczotka-Gorn
David Dinklage
Gillian Paolella
Marian Berkowitz
Erika Fellinger
Brendan Shea
Melissa Suderman
Katie Brillantes
Benjamin Gordon
Lang Zerner
Yvonne Ilton
Jordan Voelker
Joan Duffy
Adam Reynolds
Mary Reynolds
Katie Willis-Morton
Kathleen Flynn
Reebee Garofalo
Jefferson T Scott
Chandra Gillespie
John Barnett
Martin O’Connell
Mary O’Connell
Christopher Doucet
Michael Doucet
Debbie Doucet
Allison Buckley
Kelly Turley
Imelda Devlin
Sarah Radding
Edward Zarecor
Jeff Nedelka
Daniel Gonzalez Brenes
Sara Elsa-Beech
Derek Brain
Danielle Krcmar
Sarah Donaldson
Marcus Donaldson
Tamara Jay Harper
Morgan Wahl
Eun Hah
Derrick Washington
Debbie Hellweg
Maureen O'Leary-LeBlanc
Cam Ackland
Kathleen Ackland
Linda Cardinal
George LeBlanc
Amanda VanVleck
DiAnn Mroszczak
Nick Choly
Rachel P Simmons
Lisa Cherin Mayer
Nancy J Roach
William D Sullivan
Amanda LoRusso
John Lussier
Nancy J Roach
William D Sullivan
Courtney Mulroy
Stephanie Giannetto
Jan Levinson
Laurie Merker