This is not the language we would expect to hear from the Island planning body charged with protecting our land and water and leading the Vineyard climate action efforts:

“I remain concerned about the climate change and environmental impacts, and I have to work my way through that.”

“I don’t think it is inconsistent to be against single use plastics but to be for something like this.”

Last week’s Martha’s Vineyard Commission land use planning committee meetings demonstrated the disconnect between the environmental rhetoric of the MVC and its decision-making criteria. All but one commissioner participating in Tuesday’s meeting made it clear they intend to approve this proposal with minimal conditions, likely next week. There was little indication that any of the letters and testimony from 20 local environmental organizations or countless other concerned citizens — or our years of field work — affected their decision-making.

Commissioners did not discuss the myriad climate and environmental impacts associated with a 2.5-acre plastic field. Nor did they explore how it will conflict with the MVC’s climate work, Island Plan and goal to reduce fossil fuel use to zero per cent by 2040. They didn’t mention that the town of Oak Bluffs is constrained in its official oversight due to yet another zoning-exempt project and that this project would sit within a zone 2 wellhead protection area, adding four acres of impermeable surfaces, or the lack of master planning for the high school campus. They also didn’t seem concerned by the discovery of bioaccumulative, toxic PFAS in the plastic field materials. Chatham, Wellesley, Natick, and Wayland’s contaminated drinking water should be a cautionary tale.

Instead they focused on the false choice of voting for kids or the environment. An all-grass campus is best for kids. It prioritizes their health and that of the world they will inherit. There has been ample testimony from parents and athletes who do not want to play on a plastic field.

When concerns were raised about anonymous funding, it was shocking to hear commissioners dismiss them and urge the LUPC to take it on “faith” that the donors will provide all the funding ($500,000-$1 million-plus) for every system replacement in perpetuity.

Commissioners also batted down draft language for an all-grass condition, saying it would amount to an application denial. Wasn’t the primary goal of this project to replace a failing track, provide new, properly engineered fields, and ADA-compliant walkways and facilities? Have the nonexistent anonymous donors somehow communicated that they would only fund the project if it includes plastic?

The hearing chairman stated: “You could take the plastic that we all use in one week and it’s more than this field will ever be.” No. To approve a plastic field is a vote for 30-plus tons of plastic and foam trash every time it needs replacing. Sending our trash to “youth facilities” in Pennsylvania as the MVC chairman suggested is not repurposing, it’s dumping in a less privileged community.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Where in this review is all the environmental advocacy and stewardship that we see from the MVC? This application begs for a thorough review. Please join us in demanding that it gets one.

Mollie Doyle, Dardy Slavin and Rebekah Thomson


The writers are founders of the Field Fund.