Letter to the editor: Woodway playfield not so crumby



I’ve coached youth soccer in Edmonds for many seasons. Our kids have played at Francis-Anderson Center, Sierra Park and others. We have practices every week in the geese poop at City Park — which is organic so it must be good for kids [right?].

I sprain my ankle every year being active with the kids on lumpy fields and I will need surgery eventually. The kids’ ankles will be no exception. But, supposedly artificial turf can cause cancer. Supposedly GMO potatoes are giving me cancer too. The recycled-rubber turf at former Woodway is even maligned in reports as a “tire-waste” field, which is recycling blasphemy [crossing my chest].

I’m all for stepping up the science and getting the long term effects of crumb-rubber fields investigated scientifically, but thus far investigations haven’t found causal relationship between crumb rubber and cancer. We do know that the soccer season is booming in part because of the nice field, and we do know that increased exercise and activity have positive health effects.

If emotion trumps settled facts, then let’s take feelings into full account. It feels really great to kick the ball on crumb-rubber turf and kinda crappy to kick it on lumpy ground through goose poop and standing water. The former Woodway High School field is always packed with happy players, whereas other fields are relatively unused. Edmonds could really use another nice field. Use one of the many grassy fields if you are concerned.

— Coach Matt Richardson

37 Replies to “Letter to the editor: Woodway playfield not so crumby”

  1. You’re a brave man, Coach Richardson. I really don’t understand the hysteria about tire rubber either; it is all around us, on kids’ bikes, on all our cars, and we are presumably breathing the stuff constantly (without any reported effects) because all that rubber goes somewhere.


  2. Addressing facts – car tires contain known carcinogens such as carbon black. By definition carcinogens cause cancer. The only question regarding rubber crumb is whether the chemicals leach. No studies have been done to address inhalation, nanoparticles, ingestion or absorption skin and blood stream. The only studies that address leaching involve the presence of chemicals when mixed with water. Guess what, the chemicals leach and got absorbed by zebrafish after just 7 days. The exposure is real, the risk is unnecessary – especially when there are organic (non-rubber, non-toxic) alternatives.

    From an emotional perspective, my son is one of nearly 300 soccer goal keepers who have been diagnosed with blood cancer. We let him return to the fields after his first bout, and guess what, his cancer returned. Its just dumb to use garbage too toxic for landfills on kids playfields. Try coconut, walnut, cork, etc.


    1. The study took a list from UW Women’s Soccer coach Amy Griffin and compared it against state cancer registry. Basically they took a list of 53 compiled by one soccer coach and, with no additional outreach beyond this one coach of mostly 16-20 something year olds, compared it to the entire state’s registry of those 6 to mid-20’s on the registry and concluded no increase.

      They admit that the list likely did not include all of the cases. So I wonder, how many did it miss? 5%? 10%? 50%? We really do not know because there was no cross-referencing of the state’s soccer players with a cancer database- something that would have given a more accurate picture. Additionally they did not conduct a study of the toxins in tire crumbs or examine routes of exposures.

      The DOH never set out to do a study, but instead reviewed existing literature and interviewed the players on the list- once again, a list collected by one soccer coach, as they did not even attempt to look for additional cases. There was no independent testing of the particles or the off-gassing of compounds in the crumbs on the field, which often occurs in hot weather.

      Currently the DOH website lists ways to minimize potential chemical exposures, including always washing your hands after playing on the field and before eating; taking off any equipment outside or in the garage; showering after play; quickly cleaning any cuts or scrapes; and spitting out any crumb rubber that gets into your mouth.


      1. Laura, I think I’m pretty aligned with you observing that the studies were half-done and that studies need to be done. Let’s have the science before the bans though. I’ve been in and out of politics. I fought I522 which would have mandated GMO labels. I saw that people tried to invoke science that didn’t exist and give full-weight to inconclusive results and conjecture from “experts”. Science is the victim when that happens. Then, after the science was done, conclusively, it was determined that there was no causality been GMO foods and cancer and that GMO foods are every bit as nutritious as organic foods. Meanwhile GMO’s are feeding the planet and everyone has full tummies. Meanwhile the Old Woodway play-field is full of happy players who are exercising. My heart weighs heavy for those who are affected by a tragedy which may or may not be related to exposure to [something], but sometimes those affected the most can be the least objective. I’m with Green Peace when they identify chlorine as a toxic element. However, I just took both my boys to swim lessons in Lynnwood this morning. Toxic exposure aside, the most dangerous thing for young kids is downing (#1 cause of death according to CDC). As a parent I weight the decision of exposing my kid to chlorine against the chances of getting a communicable disease; I weight the chances of them drowning in a pool against the chances that one of my boys might need to know how to swim to save their own lives. Green Peace wants to ban chlorine, and that’s where they and I part ways.

        Here’s what Edmonds should do instead of banning play fields. Based on prudent recommendations we should have wash stations next to the field (the honey-pots are sub-par for several reasons). Advice parents who are handing out snacks to kids after the games to have their kids wash their hands before they eat it. Signage doesn’t hurt to help get the message out. Play on.


        1. There is no science that washing your hands after playing on tire crumb has any benefit. If you are going to argue science then please stick to the facts. I can tell you that my son had stabbed knees throughout soccer season and I don’t believe washing his hands would have helped. Nor did he eat on the fields. Antidotal, like your soccer experience.

          Again by definition used car tires are categorized as toxic waste and kids are playing on scientifically indisputable carcinogens. Why, when there are alternatives? So the question is do we wait like we did cigarettes and asbestos, or just make a safe and responsible choice now?


        2. Education regarding washing up after play is a detente. My kids have dropped food on the ground at Former Woodway and I pick it up and eat it. I’m a dad with no shame and I am not gonna let snacks go to waste. I would not eat off the [natural] field at City Park. There was no ambiguity in the science behind asbestos and second hand cigarette smoke. Even if I were able to concede on all grounds, I don’t think crumb rubber fields belong in the same echelon as asbestos and cigarettes. Crumb rummer fields seem to fall somewhere between Kinder Eggs (which are banned) and Sunlight (a known cause of cancer).


    2. As someone involved in the study, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on – super disappointing. The problem is that the primary premise is false, that Amy’s List encompasses every soccer player diagnosed with cancer who played on turf fields. Doctors, the Cancer Registry nor the WA State DOH have collected that data. To expect one coach to have it all is truly absurd.


      1. “The problem is that the primary premise is false, that Amy’s List encompasses every soccer player diagnosed with cancer who played on turf fields.” I’m convince-able. I’m a bit of an Excel geek. I’ll take a closer look at the study/data to see if that was, in fact, the premise.


        1. To be clear, I help manage Amy’s and together we shared the data with WSDOH with the intention of research. We expected them to analyze data not publicly available to the rest of us. I also attended two meetings prior to the public release. They did NOT contact families on the Cancer Registry to inquire about sports activities. And they did NOT contact soccer families from the WA Youth Soccer Assoc. to verify number of players in WA State. They also didn’t test a single field. Those are the facts.


  3. When the people who work with crumb rubber and recycled tires, wear hazardous gear to protect themselves, that would seem to indicate that it must not quite be harmless. When tires are made of dozens of chemicals, some of which cause cancer, that would seem to give pause to reasonable people.

    Is the ONLY option to use materials that cause cancer? C’mon. Spend just a little of that same money for these new fields, on maintaining grass. Thus far, grass does not cancer. Or go with other ‘infills’ that don’t cause cancer. Seriously — use materials that are made from chemicals? It’s astounding to me that there is a debate on this.

    To deliberately expose our kids to materials which the producers themselves consider hazardous, seems ludicrous, ignorant, and dangerous.

    Not long ago, the tire industry had to pay to have these materials safely disposed of. Now they make millions selling the stuff. Huge profit there.

    Follow the money. This isn’t about safety. This is about profit. Safety of the kids isn’t a concern whatsoever.

    If you want expose your kids to this stuff, have them roll in it, breathe it in, bring it home, wear it on their skin — seems negligent to me.


    1. “To deliberately expose our kids to materials which the producers themselves consider hazardous, seems ludicrous, ignorant, and dangerous.”

      Like when California forced all baby clothes, mattresses and furniture manufacturers to put flame retardants into products?:


      There are obviously real exposure concerns (like when the people we trust in government expose an entire generation to known toxic substances) and concerns that aren’t so real (like when people try to scare use with pseudo-science that GMO’s cause cancer):


      I believe Laura’s campaign to be genuine and that there’s reason for new investigations into crumb rubber. However, her campaign is easily run off the rails by folks who say things like, “If you want expose your kids to this stuff, have them roll in it, breathe it in, bring it home, wear it on their skin — seems negligent to me.” I’m taking my boys to McDonalds just to spite you.


    2. Michael Buley,

      Thank you for your rational, precautionary approach to the question of the degree of risk for children who play on crumb-rubber playing fields. You are 100% correct in pointing out the profit motive that is responsible for the choices to install carcinogenic playfields.

      Some of the other comments are “non-sequitors” (like comparing the harm from sugars to playing soccer on a crumb-rubber field).

      If school districts are not willing to protect the children whom they are required to serve and protect, then we have a very serious problem. If there are safer choices for non-grass fields than crumb-rubber ones, then clearly the decision-makers for schools should opt for those. Furthermore, it’s baffling that an organization ostensibly promoting healthy communities would not also agree to donate their large contributions to less toxic playing fields.


  4. In addition to Edmonds City Council’s extending their precautionary ban on the use of crumb rubber and Shoreline Parks and Recreation Board’s unanimous vote not to use the waste-tire product on upcoming field replacements, there are numerous school districts and parks departments choosing the same including: Seattle’s Bobby Morris Playfield, South Kitsap, Anacortes, Lakewood, Mercer Island, and Vashon High Schools. https://www.parentmap.com/article/artificial-turf-crumbs-cancer-risk

    Currently the Minnesota State Legislature is moving forward to establish a moratorium on the use of waste tire mulch and crumb rubber on new parks, fields, and playgrounds, and requiring advisory signage on current fields and playgrounds as a way to educate users on ways to reduce exposure. The state of Connecticut is also moving forward similar legislation.

    Earlier this month the City of Minneapolis passed a resolution committing Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to Several Actions Related to Waste Tire Products. As a board member stated “The Minneapolis City Council is now clearly on record affirming that the potential health risks to people, especially young children, who are exposed to the chemicals in tires on fields and playgrounds are undeniable.” Additionally, the Minneapolis School district is moving to set aside a couple million dollars to remove and replace the tire mulch from all 47 of its playgrounds. https://www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@clerk/documents/webcontent/wcmsp-197379.pdf

    Finally, if you are going to make the argument that you prefer to play on artificial turf over grass, at least make a fair comparison to a well built/well maintained grass field instead of an field that was not built using current grass field technology and receives little more than mowing. Just imagine the caliber of grass fields we could have if we took just 1/4 of the cost of artificial turf and put it towards installing well built grass fields.


  5. What if we looked to the health effects researchers for health advice? They are the epidemiologists, endocrinologists, and other prevention based fields whose main interest is in preventing and treating disease. These professionals are calling for caution with the use of crumb rubber- especially around children.

    Soccer Wire interviewed Dr. David Brown, Public Health Toxicologist and Director of Public Health Toxicology for EHHI, and past toxicologist for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Brown states in reference to current studies “There isn’t enough content there to answer [the cancer question],” he said. “[Artificial-turf advocates] are deluding themselves.” When asked what advice he would give parents thinking of letting their children play on turf fields, Brown was adamant. “My basic advice is, don’t do it,” he replied. “I think they would have to understand that there is a level of risk that the child is incurring.” And what if there are no other alternatives to artificial -turf fields? “If we feel the need to use [turf fields], I’d require that everyone shower and that they use only shoes that they would use on that field and that they not wear the same clothes in and around afterwards, because you want to reduce the chance that [tire crumbs] would be ingested.” In the absence of conclusive long-term studies on the known carcinogens found in some artificial turf fields, Brown believes it’s better to be safe than sorry. https://www.soccerwire.com/news/a-level-of-risk-former-cdc-toxicologist-unsurprised-by-alleged-link-between-artificial-turf-cancer/

    According to Dr. Phillip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital and a top expert on the effect of chemicals on children “Children go to playgrounds almost daily, and gifted athletes are on the soccer filed almost every day.  That sort of cumulative exposure results in a buildup in their body of these toxic chemicals, and can result in a buildup of cellular damage that’s caused by these chemicals, that can then result in disease years or decades later.” “Little children should not be put in a situation where they’re forced to be in intimate contact with carcinogenic chemicals,” Dr. Landrigan added. https://kansascity.legalexaminer.com/defective-dangerous-products/playground-danger-is-recycled-rubber-mulch-toxic-to-your-kids/

    Barry Boyd, MD: Clinical Professor of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, Oncologist at Greenwich Hospital and Affiliate Member of the Yale Cancer Center, warned that “because artificial turf playing fields are disproportionately used by children and adolescents, these childhood exposures to environmental carcinogens may add to lifelong risk of cancer.” https://www.saratogafalcon.org/content/are-artificial-turf-fields-carcinogenic

    The tide is turning on the use of waste-tire crumb rubber where our children play. There are proven alternatives, including well built grass fields. The turf industry is on the defense and I fully expect more articles like this attempting to discredit the well documented need for concern.


  6. Is the any chance that we can work constructively to resolve this issue when the CDC report is complete? Or will this be one of those endless battles?


    1. I think the best way to address this is to conduct scientific research. All we have is a hypothesis, which isn’t how public safety should work. The City Council could easily co-op with other municipalities to get a joint-grant for actual science. Edmonds should allow new fields, but also have wash stations and signage. Banning another nice field thus far only has the effect of the one nice field we already have being crowded. Ban-ers and Alarmers have a way of hogging the speaking stick. The proof in opinion (conjecture is all there is so far) is how busy the one nice field is over the other fields that are in terrible shape. I’ll eat a sandwich on the ground at the Former Woodway High School before I’ll do the same at the goose field at City Park.


  7. I’m with Darrol on this one. What would it take to resolve this issue and put it to rest?

    AS one who has played soccer for close to 40 years now – on both grass fields and turf – I love grass fields…but they are a mess in this state. Tough to keep up, often times treated with chemicals (but we don’t talk about that), and generally the cause of twisted ankles. As a result, I prefer turf. And while I often times find myself “eating” turf from falls, the exposure to any “toxins” is likely far less than what I was exposed to in the service or the negative health impacts caused by sugar.

    There are risks associated with virtually all activities.


  8. Sun causes cancer. Do we put a roof over all fields? Or do we wear sunblock or total cover clothing? Opps, sunblock cannot be used by kids in school. Or do we assess the risks and go on?


    1. The problem is that children and families aren’t given a choice. Our kids play on 20-30,000 tires 5 days a week during PE and lunch at public schools. There are better infill alternatives, so it’s not about turf vs grass. It’s just taking garbage off the fields.


      1. AstroTurf has been around since the 60’s. If “better” infill is available, then the industry would already be using something like coconut husks. The popper roll of government in consumer protection is to collect the facts and monetize product liability by way of civil action. If you want to ban a product (especially one with a safe, storied history like AstroTurf), fund the science and open a class action lawsuit. There would be a market boon in alternative playing surfaces and corporations would line up to provide a “better” product. If any formal study resulted in a causal effect of tires and cancer, dozens of new corporations would be created the next day and they’d be competing for municipal contracts. Point to a single lawyer who wouldn’t file a class action pro bono if there were any evidence that crumb-rubber turf caused cancer. A preemptive ban in absence of facts and due process is an end-run on a civil society.


        1. Crumb rubber infill did not become prevalent until the 80’s. Of course it’s the number one choice – recycling toxic garbage is subsidized making it the cheapest option.

          Places like IMG Academy in Florida is transitioning to First Form, a company NOT affiliated with the Turf Council/Lobby). Seattle Parks Dept and Seattle Public Schools are not replacing fields with garbage either.

          For the record there are several law firms with significant client lists actively pursuing a case against rubber infill causing cancer. The numbers are there. Again we know from firsthand experience.


  9. I think exposure should be considered here too, not just whther crumb rubber is toxic or not. Sure, workers in tire manufacturing are routinely exposed both to the final product and the chemicals during production on a routine basis, and therefore need protective garb. But on turf fields for a few days a year? Really? It seems to me that the exposure for most kids will be relatively minor to the point where the presence of any possible toxins are negligible. I think we should be moving forward with the crumb rubber fields.

    If anyone wants to argue that we should put in grass and maintain it, then tell me how you plan to get the city of Edmonds and the school district to keep the fields in pristine condition for the safety of our kids. I can tell you as of right now requests have been made for years to get them to improve conditions for the safety of kids and they have only fallen on def ears. We have an opportunity here to improve the quality of life for our community’s youth sports. We should move forward.


  10. My son was a full time goal keeper and diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma. His symptoms started with a long-lasting cough. To better understand the impact of turf especially for goal keepers diving in the stuff, here’s a video breakdown. I do support responsible synthetic turf options – organic, recyclable and one’s that comes with a complete manufacturing data sheet so that we know what’s in the material that you’re buying.
    An explanation on turf inhalation and particles…


    1. Interesting video – thanks.

      If you can mount a scientific – meaning causal relationships shown – case between the degree to which kids are exposed to the crumb rubber through sports, and at what point the crumb rubber is the culprit for causing health problems, you would have no argument from me. I am all for keeping our kids as healthy and safe as reasonable. That is part of the reason why I have been in favor of these turf fields, because the current conditions most of our children have to play in for practices, and until Woodway, games, has been a hazard. And again, repeated requests to Edmonds and Edmonds School District to fix the fields have gotten nowhere. As much as Edmonds is a community full of families, it seems odd to me we spend so little on the conditions for our youth sports.


  11. Matt – I appreciate you writing a letter on this topic and I agree with you. I think all of us in the community should be aware that while we wring our hands on youth and adult sports fields around here, kids grow up, 1000s of hours of rigorous activity doesn’t happen and other areas around Seattle surpass Edmonds with better facilities. I believe there is a silent majority of people passionate about youth sports and the benefits it brings to a community that have been underrepresented and not listened to by our city council and city officials. I understand the need to continue to evaluate crumb rubber, but city officials are paralyzed by a combination of outspoken crumb rubber opposition, park neighbors, and an over-abundance of competing constituents to make anything really happen.
    People who want continued improvement in our youth sports facilities should push for continued development of the old Woodway HS fields into a true complex with state of the art fields and LIGHTS. This would pay for itself with use fees from youth and adult leagues. The infrastructure is there, yet the city has stymied efforts by the school to add the lights and of course the next phase of fields. This needs to happen. Civic Playfield was another opportunity where I believe the voice of youth and adult sports leagues were paid relative lip service in the planning. Hopefully, Meadowdale Playfields can be renovated and the games can begin!


    1. Tom- A majority of communities around Edmonds are choosing alternatives to crumb rubber. Seattle Parks and Rec and Seattle Public Schools are moving away from the use of crumb rubber. Shoreline Parks and Rec voted unanimously to recommend alternatives to waste tire infill. South Kitsap High School, Vashon Island School District, Anacortes High School, Mercer Island High School, Lakewood High School, City of Kenmore, and others are choosing not to use the suspect tire infill. And these are just the local municipalities. All around the country school districts, parks and rec, city councils, and even state legislatures are moving away from the use of waste tires on athletic fields and playgrounds. They are beginning to understand that the question is not “Do we get Turf fields?” It appears to me that they have moved on to asking “Do we continue to push for an outdated product with a number of health concerns, or do we advocate for safer infill options”?

      I, for one, choose to advocate for the safer options and I hope you will join me.



    2. I have 3 boys who play soccer, baseball and football on outdoor fields throughout the NW. I am all for better maintained field options including turf, just NOT toxic rubber infill.


  12. The narrative here is way off and I am not sure if that is a purposeful distraction or simply a misunderstanding. As the most outspoken local advocate, my main argument is not against artificial turf or the need for more fields- it is advocating against playing on waste tires. Additionally, Edmonds’ renewed moratorium is not against more turf fields, but it is about caution in the face of growing concern. My son loves field sports and I want more fields available for our community, and though I personally prefer grass, I would consider it a win to have turf fields without the waste tire crumb rubber. Choosing a non-tire infill would serve both the concerned and those not concerned- we would all win!

    There is no dispute that tires contain toxins- including a number of carcinogens. The only debate is over the bioavailability of the chemicals- which are absorbed through dermal contact, often embedded in wounds, swallowed during play, and as microscopic dust and VOC’s it is inhaled by athletes and bystanders.


    Besides the toxic risk of the waste tires mix, there are other safety reasons not to choose crumb rubber, including:

    Crumb rubber increases heat illness risk during the high-use summer months. Crumb rubber absorbs heat, so the temperature of the fields are much higher than the surrounding air temperature. According to a BYU study, an 80-85°F day can result in temperatures of 120- 146°F. This type of increase can add to the risk of heat-related illness during warm summer months. Using alternative infill materials, which do not absorb heat, can lessen the increase and thereby reduce the risk of heat illness, plus allow the fields to be used more during the warm summer months.

    Protection from concussions may not be best served by crumb rubber. The purpose of crumb rubber is as a cushioning agent against injury. However, it only works as designed if properly maintained. Since infill migrates and breaks down, especially in front of a goal, it must be routinely redistributed and refilled- something that is often neglected. Additionally, as the field ages, its ability to protect against concussions is reduced. More information is coming out on turf’s role in preventing concussion injury and much of it points to the need for uniform protection in the form of thicker padding under the turf. Often, the superior shock pads can be kept in place and reused when field replacement occurs- long-term cost saving. The more protective shock pads are a requirement for many alternative infill materials.


    The environmental concerns that the heavy metals in the chemical makeup of the crumb rubber could leach into groundwater, streams, and other bodies of water.

    While the science is far from settled there are a number of reasons that crumb rubber is not the best choice for our children to play on. Besides an unnecessary exposure to a potentially hazardous material, its use increases heat-related illnesses and decreases playability during hot summer months, and it is not the best material for concussion protection. I believe our community and our children would be better served by joining the growing list of those choosing an alternative infill material. Let’s put the health of our athletes first.

    More info: https://www.toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Crumb+Rubber


  13. Spend the money and energy on real grass fields; we know the risks of those. Although real grass needs maintenance, those fields contribute to the environment rather than detract from it. For all the energy and money spent on artificial turf issues, the environmentally responsible answer is simple grass. It seems folks are going the long way round because the season is longer with fake grass. In a town that prides itself on its green footprint, why inorganic fields at all?


    1. The tires already exist. Edmonds might pride itself as “green”, but none of us seem to be above using tires. Most tires are incinerated, or stockpiled in open-air lots, or put into landfill. The least of them are recycled. The irony is that crumb rubber in-fill is actually great recycling.

      One hour of driving a mower is as polluting as 100 miles of driving a car. Lest we forget to mention pesticides and water consumption that good grass playing fields require.

      There are many legitimate environmental concerns, but that argument is overused at the detriment of it being taken seriously when we really need it. There’s nothing natural about a soccer field which used be an old-growth forest. Tires are hydrocarbon, so by definition they are organic. The scattering of goose poop at City Park is very organic. We’re humans and we made room at mother nature’s table, and we all seem to agree that we want a part of what we took from her to be a soccer field. The only environmental argument in this context is to stop playing soccer and to stop rolling around on tires. You first.


  14. Today’s Everett Herald has an article about a recent study on fields using crumb rubber, including 1 field located in Everett. Bottom line: Concentrations of the contaminants found in crumb rubber samples were below Consumer Product Safety Commission limits for children’s products. Read the full article for more details.


  15. Contaminant levels vary significantly from field to field and from sample to sample within each field. Lead, in particular, is known to vary by more than 100 fold from one sample to the next. Further, it is not just CPSC regulated chemicals that pose a risk. In the scientific literature, multiple fields have been identified with contaminant levels above NY Department of Environmental Conservation limits for soil at toxic waste sites. Personally, I don’t knowingly let my children play at toxic waste sites, or places that could qualify as one. The Jenkins study itself is not publicly available yet so it is impossible to comment on it beyond that.

    What is up with the argument that grass doesn’t work in Washington? I played on my high school soccer team on Lakes High in the 80’s. Grass worked back then. I even played a little in college recreationally while at PLU, the grass was just fine there too. From as near as I can tell, the problem with the grass fields at the old Woodway High School is that, except for intermittent mowing, they were utterly unmaintained.

    The new fields have been receiving less than 1000 hours per year of scheduled use per year each. Assuming that the base will last 20 years and the fields will be resurfaced at 10 years, capital costs alone on the fields will average out to at least $100,000 per year per field. The cost per hour of use is in excess of $100. Yearly maintenance for a high quality grass field that could easily withstand 1000 hours per year of use would be a mere $25,000. If only we could have chosen to have well-maintained grass fields, we could have had four fields instead of two with money left over to spend on other community needs.


    1. The population in this area is much greater now than it was in the ’80s, and, more importantly, there are many more people using sports fields year-round now than in the ’80s. Grass doesn’t work as a year-round heavily used surface in the northwest because we have long wet periods where the grass does not grow (notice how you don’t have to mow your grass all winter long). In the fall, winter, and early spring, the fields do not recover from heavy traffic. Thus, they get muddy and rutted. They can’t be shut down for repair because they are so heavily scheduled and it takes a very long time to get the grass to regrow to a point where it can withstand soccer, football, lacrosse traffic. Natural grass fields like Safeco Field work because they have tight control over how much the field is used, and they spend a ton of money on maintenance, watering, and fertilizer. But even that field shows signs of wear later in the season and they have to patch the heavily worn areas. Natural grass is not an option for year-round fields in the Pacific Northwest.

      To your point, it’s true field maintenance is a major problem. Unmaintained fields become unplayable, unless they are synthetic. Most parks departments don’t have budgets to maintain their fields properly, and their budgets are shrinking, not growing. So planning for low maintenance is appropriate, in my opinion. It also takes thousands upon thousands of gallons water and tons of fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides to properly maintain a natural grass field–that has a significant environmental impact that is very well documented.

      There is not a perfect year-round sports field solution. In my opinion natural grass is way further from perfect than some sort of synthetic turf option.


  16. The point about pesticides and fertilizer is definitely something to add to the conversation.

    Didn’t you work on the installation of Field Turf at the Old Lynnwood High School.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *