The subject of natural grass versus synthetic turf at the MVRHS athletic complex is complicated and there are wide-ranging and strong opinions on both sides.

MV@PLAY sifted through much of the available information and only relied on the science from independent, published, peer-reviewed studies. These studies are from universities and governmental agencies. All studies from synthetic turf and natural grass industries were disqualified, as were opinion papers that were not data based but instead are masquerading as science.

When MV@PLAY started the process, we looked at all options. Natural grass was the first option we considered and that is why we have chosen natural grass for 65 per cent of the athletic campus fields. We had meetings with Jeff Carlson who is a natural grass expert and has written the book on organic turf management through his work at Vineyard Golf Club. We showed him the use that each field would be asked to handle. He was clear the only way to handle this amount of use would be with a combination of synthetic turf and natural grass fields.

There have been letters to the editor that were passionate, but unfortunately were also somewhat misleading, inaccurate or misrepresented our proposal for phase one reconstruction of the existing track and field.

Comments regarding the use of antimicrobials, static conditioners, solvents, fungicides and RoundUp are an incorrect representation of what actually is used on thousands of outdoor synthetic turf fields. Most facilities do not use any of these products at all, and when they are used it is typicallyassociated with indoor facilities.

There are many examples of facilities using both natural grass and synthetic turf fields that are required to test monitoring wells placed around both surfaces. These water quality results without question favor synthetic turf fields as having significantly lower environmental impact. Grass field monitoring wells show elevated nitrogen and phosphorous levels and a much higher percentage of run off. Synthetic fields show no elevated levels of fertilizers or turf compounds. Turf fields are designed to directly discharge storm water into the ground without runoff.

I would like to ask those who may have concerns about the use of artificial turf to take a couple of hours and do your own research. It doesn’t matter which side you favor; I simply urge you to read the independent scientific data that is available and make an informed decision. No one should rely on letters to the editor as facts. Do your own research and check the facts from both sides of the argument.

Finally, MV@PLAY was created as a 501c3 nonprofit (we are currently waiting to receive approval from the IRS and have informed donors of this) for one reason: to provide Island players of all ages with reliable, cost-effective, and safe mix of playing surfaces that they need and deserve. Our master plan, which we created in close consultation with school officials and designed around their requirements, shows two natural grass multi-sport fields envisioned for our younger players. In addition, the plan includes two baseball and two softball fields that will be natural grass. Again, this is a 41-acre complex that will have 65 per cent natural grass fields to go with the synthetic multi-sport fields. This mix of synthetic turf with organic infill and natural grass fields has been the result of consultation with athletic and school officials, experts in natural grass maintenance, sports facility experts, studying scientific, peer-reviewed research, community input and frankly, common sense.

Robert Smith
West Tisbury