Westfield’s turf war


Photo courtesy of Town of Westfield New Jersey Recreation Department

Tentative plans for the Edison Intermediate School Multi-Purpose Fields Project

1,836 hours per year and 918 hours per field. It is hard to find an after-school sport that isn’t using the EIS fields each day. With numerous teams playing on the fields regularly, the grounds are starting to deteriorate.

On July 14, 2020, a solution was proposed: Replace the grass fields with synthetic turf ones. The proposal addresses the troublesome grass fields, but in order to be successful, it needs to address possible impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.

Westfield athletes have similar complaints about the fields. They are uneven with hidden holes and many students have fallen victim to injury from chunks of grass that have been uprooted by cleats. The grass fields experience disproportionate use, and haven’t been taken care of properly.

According to westfieldnj.gov, the town proposes installing two artificial turf, lit, multi-purpose fields; one unlit, grass baseball field; one artificial turf baseball field and prefabricated restroom facilities. The project would benefit all users of the fields and expand opportunities for Westfield athletes to hold games and practices.

The second part of the project addresses the issue that stadium lights are long overdue. As the days get shorter and daylight is hard to come by, lights will increase the usability of the fields. In the winter, when the sun sets before 5 p.m., lights would create more opportunities for teams to use the fields.

In order for these improvements to be considered a success, however, their drawbacks need to be evaluated. This project comes at a cost: $9 million and significant time to complete. The project has caused concern, but the estimated price for a real-grass alternative, not including the necessary and expensive maintenance, towers even higher. Additionally, when the construction begins, many Westfield teams will need to find a new place to practice, which could have a negative impact on their ability to succeed in their sport. Outside of these areas, there are not many places to practice and hold games.

Residents in the area have also voiced concerns about the project, citing that the turf fields would adversely affect the environment and their neighborhood. But, the town’s study supports the project. CME Associates, a sports field management company, stated in their report that “there are no studies to our knowledge that show that playing on synthetic turf fields poses a direct human health risk.”

Many fear that if the new fields are constructed, privacy and residential lifestyle will no longer be taken into account. Residents surrounding the area have voiced their opinions on the new fields, stating that they will negatively affect quality of life and property value. Along Rahway Avenue and Washington Street are numerous signs denouncing the new fields and stadium lights. While these concerns are reasonable, lights have become more efficient and less intrusive by reducing the amount of “spill” light, or unwanted light that escapes the main beam.

With this debate becoming heated, it’s time to get off the sidelines and make a decision. While it’s important to consider the impact, turf fields would benefit many athletes. Through taking simple precautions and addressing the concerns of the community, this change will be a success for athletes and Westfield residents as well.