Brookline resident, father of twins at Brookline High School
I am urging Brookline to install a synthetic turf field at Cypress Field, next to Brookline High School. I have to admit, as a staunch environmentalist, I’m surprised I’ve come to this position. Here’s why I have:
My son is a freshman who plays soccer at Brookline High School and previously for Brookline baseball and soccer town teams. His last week of high school soccer this season was canceled because it rained once, and the soccer field at Cypress Field was closed by the town before the rain, during the rain, and after the rain. This canceled five practices and two games. This is typical for Brookline. Grass fields at parks and schools are often closed if they are too wet.
Calling Cypress Field a “field” is a bit charitable. It’s really just weeds and dirt. My son says it’s embarrassing to play home soccer games there, and that it hurts his knees and ankles to play on it. Years ago it was a lush, new grass field, the type grass proponents support. But it has deteriorated through wear and tear and lack of funding for maintenance.
I believe this will happen again if Brookline invests millions in grass again. Sure, it will open as grass, but it will soon be reduced to dirt and weeds, unavailable at the hint of rain. Investing in grass wastes money. With our town budget looking at a massive override for our schools, we need to ensure our other expenditures are allocated wisely.
Nearly every other community we travel to has an artificial, crumb rubber turf field adjacent to its high school. This type of field, made from recycled tires, gives me pause because their safety is under study. And even though Brookline has installed crumb rubber at three other locations, I’m happy the town has proposed a more modern turf, with organic infill. This seems safer, and it’s why I support this plan.
The town needs an athletic field that’s more reliable and available than a grass field. As we urgently try to get our children outside, away from their iPhones, we should do everything we can to ensure they have the facilities and support they need.
Brookline Precinct 6 Town Meeting member; former capital projects chief of staff for New York City’s parks department
Brookline residents are lucky: We’ve inherited a great public park system. But with that inheritance comes a duty: to maintain and protect it. Cypress Field, near Brookline High School, needs such protection. Purchased in 1871 as one of America’s first municipal parks, it has been heavily used by nearby residents and others for nearly 150 years. Today, Cypress is the largest Brookline park in its dense urban neighborhood, but with grass worn from heavy use over many years, it needs renovation.
Pointing to current conditions, some claim that a grass field at Cypress is unsustainable, and that it should be replaced with plastic turf. I understand the thinking to a point: I have two kids who play soccer, and artificial turf fields can withstand heavy use over long hours. But keeping grass at Cypress Field is the right choice for many reasons.
Green plastic is not real green space, which Brookline needs more of, not less. Many residents, with little or no private outdoor space, rely heavily on Brookline’s parks. Losing 3.5 acres of green space at Cypress would be devastating.
Plastic turf would make Cypress less inviting and usable to many people (particularly seniors and kids) who don’t play active team sports and instead use the park for various other purposes — to relax, play, eat lunch or dinner, walk a dog, sunbathe, or just listen to the crickets. Plastic turf gets very hot and contributes to global warming and urban heat island effects; grass cools and has other environmental benefits, soaking up storm water and as a habitat for birds, bees, insects and wildlife.
Installing plastic at Cypress Field would be four times more expensive than refurbishing the grass ($2 million vs. $500,000). The $1.5 million saved by maintaining the grass could instead go toward acquiring badly needed land for more playing fields.
Saying we must either install plastic turf or accept currently existing worn-out field conditions is a false choice. Cypress Field is long overdue for reconstruction. Refurbished grass, including better soil mix, grading, and drainage, would be a huge improvement, allowing the field to withstand heavier use and continue serving the diverse mix of residents it has served for so long.