Synthetic turf considered for park January 20 2015
A multi-million dollar revamp of Los Prados Park is in the works with San Mateo officials considering installing the first synthetic turf on city property.
The proposal to replace nearly 4.2 acres of grass with synthetic turf at the well-used park off Bahia Street will go before the Planning Commission Jan. 27 and the City Council Feb. 17.
After extensive public outreach, the Parks and Recreation Department opted to makes its first foray into synthetic turf at Los Prados Park, which is a heavily used field for a soccer, baseball and softball, said Recreation Division Manager Paul Council.
Should officials approve the proposal that also include improvements to pedestrian paths, construction could start in May and be ready for use by the end of July.
According to a recent study, San Mateo would need 14 additional fields to continue providing a high level of service with increasing recreational needs, Council said. The majority of the park will be lined with synthetic materials with approximately 1 acre remaining natural grass.
“We have much more demand for fields than we have space for. So they get very heavily used and it’s difficult to stay on top of maintenance,” Council said. “So [this project] is a way to have both a better athletic surface for the sports field and have natural grass for more informal play.”
The majority of the estimated $2.3 million project is laid out in the Park and Recreation Department’s five-year capital improvement plan, but approximately $300,000 is still unfunded, according to a staff report.
Traditional grass can become hazardous when not routinely maintained and leveled while needing time to recoup, especially after a hefty rain.
Although the benefits include saving on maintenance costs and approximately 7 million gallons of water annually, legislation questioning the health risks of using recycled tires in the turf has some councilmembers wanting alternate materials from which to choose.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, proposed Senate Bill 47, which would require state public and environmental health departments to study the effects of using recycled tires as infill for synthetic turf and whether there is a correlation to health hazards such as cancer. If approved, Hill’s legislation could put a two-year moratorium on synthetic turf, banning any school or local government from installing one between 2016 and 2018.
“If you accept the current science that’s been done, that it’s a safe material, then it’s a benefit. You’re using recycled material that [would] end up in a landfill. But there are concerns that existing science is inadequate so Sen. Hill has proposed legislation,” Council said.
Moving forward, Council said the Los Prados proposal will include several options for infill such as recycled tires; EPDM, a virgin manufactured rubber; and TPE, a manufactured cross between rubber and plastic.
Councilman David Lim said he asked staff for alternate materials from which to choose and is pleased Hill has highlighted concerns.
“The technology for artificial fields has come a long way from the old days of AstroTurf. I know there are alternatives to the black rubber pellets, more sustainable, more environmentally friendly materials than recycled tires. So I’m not saying I’m opposed to a synthetic field,” Lim said.
Lim added he plans on requesting the council take a field trip to visit a local synthetic turf field.
As of 2013, synthetic fields are in place at San Mateo, Aragon, Hillsdale and Serra high schools, the Carey School and the College of San Mateo, according to Council.
Throughout the rest of San Mateo County, there are at least 24 other synthetic turf fields, according to Council.
Mayor Maureen Freschet said choosing Los Prados Park as the first city-owned property to install synthetic turf was appropriate as it’s the most heavily used. While unaware of potential health risks during the project’s initiation, Freschet said the city is seeking to find a suitable alternative to the potentially hazardous recycled tires and wouldn’t vote to install anything that could be harmful to children.
“The alternative materials will likely cost more and may delay the project, but you cannot put a price tag on the health of our youth. So any delay is a small price to pay to ensure their safety,” Freschet said in an email. “Our goal in installing artificial turf was to promote an active lifestyle for our kids by increasing the availability and usage of the field, so the last [thing] we want is to expose them to anything toxic.”