Work underway on Woodway fields project; preliminary hearing on appeal set for July 8

Work last week at the former Woodway High School included tearing up the grass in preparation for the installation of crumb rubber turf.
Work last week at the former Woodway High School included tearing up and removing the grass in preparation for installation of crumb rubber turf.

A neighbor living near a multi-use sports fields project now underway at the former Woodway High School is continuing his legal battle against the project, and will appear in Snohomish County Superior Court July 8 for a preliminary hearing on his appeal to overturn the Edmonds City Council’s land use decision regarding the property.

Mark Wall has asked the court to deny the requested permits for the project located off 100th Avenue West in the Westgate neighborhood. The Edmonds School District confirmed Monday that district attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss Wall’s legal action.

Work has already begun on phase one of the three-phase sports complex, which eventually could include a walking track, resurfaced tennis and basketball courts, four-year-round multi-use turf fields, concessions and bleachers. As part of work that began last week, the natural grass has been torn up to make way for two artificial turf fields made of plastic grass blades and recycled tire crumb rubber. The fields are scheduled to be available for use by local select and recreational sports teams starting this fall.

For several months, project opponents have been urging the school district to delay action on the project — jointly sponsored by the district, the City of Edmonds and the Verdant Health Commission — for several reasons. Many of them are concerned about the safety of the crumb rubber turf, which is made from recycled tires that contain known carcinogens and has been cited anecdotally in recent cancer cases diagnosed among soccer goalies. There have also been issues raised about the environmental impacts of the sports complex. The Pilchuck Audubon Society has said the fields are a nesting area for resident and migratory birds and also noted that the school district — as the lead agency for the project — did not develop a plan for mitigating the runoff of potential contaminants from the crumb rubber into local creeks and eventually, into Puget Sound.

The schematic for the proposed Woodway athletic fields.
The schematic for the proposed Woodway athletic fields. Currently only the two fields shown at the right in the above graphic have been funded.

Both the school district and Verdant have said that currently available research indicates that the fields are safe for both athletes and environment.

Wall in particular has criticized the way the project was reviewed and permitted. He was an official “party of record” during the City of Edmonds Hearing Examiner’s March 26 open record hearing on the school district’s request for a conditional use permit for the project, and said he spent hundreds of hours of research into its potential impacts. Hearing Examiner Phil Olbrechts in his April 10 recommendation to the City Council to approve bleachers and and fencing for the project, cited a traffic engineering report prepared by Wall as a reason for denying field lights for the project. Olbrechts noted the lights would lead to extended field use, which in turn “has the potential for generating traffic that is significantly detrimental to public safety and welfare.”

Wall said he has accrued $15,000 so far in legal fees fighting the project. As a result, opponents of the sports field complex have create a GoFundMe account to help reimburse his expenses.

A $2.5 million grant by Verdant is funding the first phase, which would include two sports fields, bleachers and safety fencing. The school district withdrew the request for lights after Olbrechts recommended against approving them, but officials have said the district is likely to reapply for lights at a later date. There is no funding available currently for phases two and three.

In his appeal, Wall said that the project will affect his “use and enjoyment” of his Nottingham Road property due to increased noise, parking and congestion (and lights if they are eventually included), and that activities generated by the fields project will also have “adverse wildlife impacts.” He has also argued that the Edmonds City Council not only erred in approving a conditional use permit for bleachers and fencing but it also erroneously authorized the project to be permitted and reviewed in segments — with separate approvals required for fencing, bleachers and lighting. “Such bifurcation had the effect of preventing a unified review of the project and its impacts; preventing the ADB (city’s Architectural Design Board), examiner, and council from basing their decisions on full information and facts consistent with applicable law,” the appeal said.

The first phase of the sports field complex  is expected to be completed this fall.
Installation of two turf fields, along with bleachers and fencing, is scheduled to be completed this fall.

In a letter sent earlier this month to the attorneys for both the school district and the city, Wall’s attorney Scott Missall warned that if Wall prevails in court, “the District and the City will likely be required to remove the fields and take such other action as the Court deems necessary to restore the status quo.”

“The District and the City are thus acting at their substantial risk in proceeding with the field conversion at this time,” Missall said.



  1. I applaud the actions of the City and the District in proceeding with this project in the face of small-minded resistance. It must be remembered that this is publicly-owned land, not a private neighborhood playfield, and considering the number of local kids that want to play organised sports AND the shortage of facilities for their use, it’s high time this property be developed for the greater good.

  2. With the mounting concern about crumb rubber fields, I support Mr. Wall wholeheartedly. In addition to the concerns about its toxic content, there is a history of severe burns being sustained by athletes playing on synthetic turf. In the recent Women’s World Cup (soccer), the temperatures were in the mid-70’s but the turf was reportedly 120 degrees and some players sustained significant burns on their legs and arms, which you can easily see on google images. (World Cup tournaments are typically held on grass fields.) Another issue is that the run-off from these fields goes into the the stream that provides water for the town of Woodway. There are known carcinogens in crumb-rubber-field run-off, so this must be of concern to the residents and government of Woodway.

  3. Read the results of the recently published year-long Yale/EHHI study on the safety of crumb rubber. Then ask yourself- is the need for more fields worth the possible health risk associated with playing on crumb rubber infilled synthetic fields? The health of our children and environment deserve a changes in plans.

  4. I wonder might be time to vote in new leadership in Edmonds SD. We are being forced to fight for our health, it seems. Both with the playfield crumb rubber issue and also with the Uncovered coal trains booming through town all night long. What is progress if we are left with unhealthy conditions and, later on, serious health issues to deal with. Will families then have to sue the city for neglect? It seems that despite already established health warnings we are being left to deal with these types of things AFTER the Edmonds SD already voted them in, found funding and the project are already underway. Unacceptable!

    1. “small minded people”……this says everything.

      People just want to make sure their CHILDREN and the environment are safe.

      The EPA stated (2015) more studies are needed.

      Perhaps it is time for a total change of government. We need a government that puts the citizens first, particularily regarding safety issues and a government that represents the citizens. There is something really fishy about the rush on this and throwing caution to the wind……

      People have been playing on grass fields forever with no problems……..I cant help but wonder if somebody has a friend, in my opinion………How else could one explain this?…….
      Time for change……everything always starts at the top.

  5. maybe because they want it done by the start of the school year. glad i dont live in a world where i believe everything is sinister.

  6. You don’t have to believe everything is sinister to use common sense (I know sort of an oxymoron). There are people in this world that do unethical, sometimes illegal things in their interest and not in the interest of the majority. IS it so bad to be extra concerned about the health of our children? Am I so “small minded” to believe what my eyes show me when every movement on these fields cause small particles of ruber and other artificial substances to kick up and cover me. Those that doubt this I ask “have you played on a crumb rubber field?”, I have and as a adult I can make a choice. What about my 7yo son, he will not have the choice other than “dont play with your friends”. Should not we learn from, asbestose, smoking, etc. and use some simple reason or are we all a bunch of chimpanzese that are supposed to just follow our “masters”?

  7. Again, it is very easy to research what happened regarding the use of asbestos for years and years and years by companies (all big names, the shocking part) that were well aware of the effects of that toxic substance on humans and the environment, but just decided to use it anyway, (profits$$$$) and set money aside a long time ago (1930s) to pay lawsuits down the road……..

    So maybe these days people aren’t so misled by the mad men of advertizing (you know, that 1960s thing), We are smart now, and have seen some effects of not using common sense regarding TOXIC anything…….and we have the internet to research

    and not just following because a few say we’re silly to question…….I say QUESTION those who question your questioning…….Another time and place comes to mind…..Those that don’t learn learn from history….or something along those lines.

    I’ve seen more questionable stuff regarding our environment here in the brief period of time that I have lived here. ……We’re not living in the 50s anymore.

  8. not passing judgment on the materials the field is made of.. just find it hard to believe so many projects in edmonds have as Tere puts has a friend.

  9. That’s why we need a new, FAIR, law abiding government, detailed Code of Ethics with no questions regarding how it was implemented and whether lawful and something in place to enforce that Code of Ethics and updated city codes, which everybody has to follow.

    And I would like to add that the citzens are at the TOP of government in regards to use of Public land and representation by the government..Our government represents the citizens not the the other way around…..Pete Seeger comes to mind……..This land is your land, this land is my land……..from California to the New York island……..this land belongs to you and me…..

    We need more thinking and we need more studies. We’re talking about the safety of children and the enviroment.

    Regarding Tere Ryder and the “friend” comment…….very , very funny. We didnt all just fall off the turnip truck as some would like. Some of us would like more honest government in the place we call home.

  10. Law suits related to the ill-advised, cancer-causing, toxic recycled rubber-tire turf will crop up in the next couple of years against the city and all of those facilitating its installation.

    Bet the EPA is watching…

    Answer is simple….grass !

  11. Yes, vote in new leadership for Edmonds School District. I received my ballot a few days ago. I will be voting against Gary Noble, incumbent just like he voted against the health of our kids on approving this project.

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