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Grass or synthetic turf? Athletic field debate continues in Laurel


As the Mattituck Park District weighs its athletic field options for Aldrich Lane park in Laurel, some residents say they still prefer grass over synthetic turf.

Mike Ryan, park district co-commissioner, gave a presentation at Thursday’s meeting outlining the cost for each project. He said it would cost about $800,000 to install a synthetic field and between $250,000 to $500,000 for a natural grass field, depending on site work and soil samples.

He said a natural grass field could be used six months out of the year and would carry nearly $33,000 worth of maintenance during both the regular and off seasons each year.

As for a synthetic field, he estimates it will cost the district about $6,700 annually to maintain.

“Grass is a lateral move,” Mr. Ryan said. “It’s hard to keep growing. It has fewer hours of use because of the maintenance. It would probably be used for games only, not practices. And it’s only open six months a year. With turf, we can extend the season to potentially 12 months.”

He also said the lights already installed at the field allow for night use by players. Coupled with the longer seasons a turf field would allow, the field could get more use by both local residents as well as outside sports teams and organizations, increasing the revenue the field brings in.

[Related: Aldrich Lane park in Laurel could be getting turf fields]

While some residents said they wanted more information about both proposals, a few residents, including Mattituck Park District co-commissioner Nicholas Deegan, said they oppose the turf field idea.

Mr. Deegan countered Mr. Ryan’s financial estimates and claimed it will only cost the district $450 to fertilize the grass fields and $1,000 for irrigation. He also questioned investing in a turf field while school enrollment continues to dwindle.

In addition, Mr. Deegan said he believes the part district’s budget — much of which comes from reimbursement funds from repairing bulkheads at Veterans Beach and the sale of a parking lot on Pike Street — should be used to fix the area’s infrastructure.

“Kids like natural grass better … grass has served the community well,” he said, which received applause from the audience. “I really don’t think [a turf field] is a good idea.”

Mr. Ryan said that while grass isn’t a bad option, the irrigation system at the field is in poor condition and would need to be replaced.

Employees from LandTek Group, an athletic field construction group in Amityville that installs both synthetic and natural fields, explained that turf grass is designed for optimal safety.

“Synthetic fields come in when you can’t keep natural grass safe,” said Marty Lyons, vice president of marketing and public relations for LandTek. “Our children are our future — we need to protect them.”

John Sulinski, vice president of operations and COO at LandTek, explained how field safety is determined with “impact testing,” also known as the G-max rating, which evaluates shock-absorption. The higher the rating, Mr. Sulinski explained, the harder the surface is.

Athletic fields between 90 and 200 are determined safe for players, he said, adding oftentimes natural grass fields score over 200 especially in areas where the grass is worn away.

During the meeting, residents said they’re concerned about the health and safety of their children, especially since there have been recent reports about how some turf fields contain materials made of recycled tires and could cause cancer.

While Mr. Ryan said there’s no conclusive evidence that has proved such a theory, Cutchogue parent and local attorney Abigail Field said she opposes the turf field proposal.

“My kid is not a guinea pig,” she said. “Shouldn’t we get more data? Toxicity has a long time to create health impacts. You don’t get cancer two days after you get an exposure.”

Other community members asked for the commissioners to return with a comprehensive chart detailing the current costs of the field, the estimated costs of a turf field and the cost of a natural field.

If the park district decides to move forward with installing a turf field, voters could be asked as early as this summer to approve a $350,000 bond to pay for the project.

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Photo: Mattituck Park District co-commissioner Mike Ryan speaking Thursday about a turf field proposal for Aldrich Lane park in Laurel. (Credit:Nicole Smith)

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