Westfield CRAFD

Are Turf Fields a Safe Place for Kids to Play in Westfield?

“Companies that sell and install artificial turf often claim there is “no evidence children are harmed” or “no evidence that the fields cause cancer.” This is often misunderstood as meaning the products are safe or are proven to not cause harm. Neither is true.”
“As an epidemiologist, I can tell you that for decades there was no evidence that smoking or 9/11 exposures caused cancer. It took many years to develop that evidence, and the same will be true for artificial turf.”

Concerns raised for the past several months by residents regarding the $9M cost estimate for the Edison Field Project continue to go unaddressed.  The Brandstetter Carroll Parks & Recreation Master Plan estimate for the equivalent scope was $3.5M.  Other recent projects in New Jersey have had similar costs to the Brandstetter Carroll estimate.  No reasonable explanation for this difference has been provided, but some possibilities come to mind:

  1. The $9M estimate from Spiezle Architecture is too high.
  2. The Edison Intermediate School property has challenges that are driving costs out of line. If so, shouldn’t other, more suitable locations be considered?
  3. Elements of both are true, in which case, the entire question of how to expand athletic field capacity should be rethought in consultation with an experienced Sports Field Manager.

When can the taxpayers of Westfield expect an explanation as to why this project costs $9M?

The Mayor and Recreation Commission have stated “this is fundamentally a capacity issue”.  It’s claimed that the Edison location “offers the greatest and most immediate additional capacity for the community”.  These statements don’t stand up to scrutiny:

  1. Residents on the advisory council have requested data on available field capacity and the demand by season or by month from sports organizations to understand how large of a gap exists. This should be fundamental information but so far it has not been forthcoming.  A project of this magnitude should not be undertaken without such basic information.
  2. No analysis has been shared to show how much incremental capacity will be gained from the $9M investment at Edison.
  3. The Edison property is already heavily scheduled for Westfield School activities and by sports associations on weekdays and weekends.
  4. Focusing on the high demand Spring and Fall seasons (32 weeks), only ~750 incremental hours per field are gained by the Edison plan. An investment of $9M to construct two fields with lights, yielding only 1,500 incremental hours cannot possibly be the most efficient use of funds.
  5. The alternative of renovating an existing grass field that’s underutilized due to poor condition is not even being considered. A property that’s accessible immediately after school and used only in daylight would provide ~1,000 hours.  This could be accomplished with only a tiny fraction of the cost and time required by the Edison plan. 
  6. After speaking with several Sports Field Managers, it’s clear that more than 1,000 hours can easily be achieved on a grass field while maintaining a safe, high quality playing surface. Proper design, construction, maintenance, and programing, overseen by a trained, experienced Sports Field Manager are the keys to success for all our athletic fields.

The Parks Master Plan benchmarking showed that Westfield is “overserved” with artificial turf fields.  We lack grass fields, so why aren’t new or renovated grass fields being considered to meet our needs?

It’s fiscally irresponsible for the Town Council and Board of Education to vote on a $9M project without far more due diligence.  Remember, residents will not get to vote on this expenditure.

Scott Bills, a certified sports field manager and the fournder of Sports Field Solution, LLC Presentation

Meeting Recording:

Access Passcode: %8J.0#v+

The Town of Westfield is considering athletic field development at Memorial Park, Elm Street Park, Tamaques Park and Edison Intermediate School, and is focused ONLY on synthetic grass and stadium lighting to fill the need for more fields. The first installation alone is projected to cost Westfield $9 Million.

Westfield CRAFD is a non-profit organization of Westfield residents committed to improving this irresponsible plan with natural, safer, sustainable solutions spread throughout the town.

What we are for

  • Increased field capacity
  • Healthy, safe, well-maintained natural grass fields
  • Preserving the natural beauty and community feel of Westfield’s beautiful neighborhoods
  • Safe, walkable, bikeable streets that encourage outdoor activities and neighborhood engagement

What we are against

  • Replacing natural grass with chemical-laden, carcinogenic plastic grass
  • Lights in ANY residential Westfield neighborhood
  • Increasing dangers for school children, pedestrians, and bikers
  • Exacerbating existing traffic congestion on Westfield streets

Natural Grass is Doable!