New Paltz parents urge district to move away from synthetic turf upgrades

January 8, 2024 / Athletic AdministrationFacilities
New York parents and community members are urging a school district to avoid the use of synthetic turf when upgrading its athletic facilities in the future.

Nearly 100 parents and residents of the New Paltz (NY) Central School District (NPCSD) submitted a letter mid-December to district officials with the request and citing findings from a recent buildings condition survey that identified needs across the district—including the athletic facilities.

synthetic turf
Photo: Gary Miotla

The letter included a request to not use synthetic, saying it was “hazardous, controversial, and financially imprudent.”

A recent story from Hudson Valley One detailed the community’s desire to get rid of synthetic field turfs for youth athletics.

Below is an excerpt from the Hudson Valley One story.

“Even with excellent maintenance, most deteriorate quickly and need to be replaced after an average of eight years,” reads the letter. “In New Paltz, this will require another $3 million allocation before the current first graders reach high school, plus the high cost of disposing of the old field through UCCRA.”

There are also numerous health issues relating to synthetic turf, claims the letter, including the possibility of “turf burn,” which can serve as a gateway to microbial pathogens that can live on plastic grass for extended periods. Synturf fields can also become anywhere from 40-to-70 degrees hotter than the surrounding air.

“At a Connecticut school in 2015, several football players received blistering burns from the plastic field,” reads the letter. “More recently, synturf at a Texas high school became hot enough to melt shoes.”

There are also concerns about exposure to the toxic materials often used in the manufacturing of synthetic turf.

The letter was signed by numerous district parents and residents, as well as town supervisor Neil Bettez, village deputy mayor Alexandria Wojcik, and parent Megan Wolff, who has a background in health policy and a doctorate in public health with a specialty in the health impact of plastics.

“(Synturf is) essentially plastic carpet,” Wolff said during a meeting of the board of education held on Wednesday, December 20. “It’s a petrochemical material and as such, it’s made with numerous heavy metals and chemical additives which leech constantly. These include lead and neurotoxin as well as cadmium, benzene, and other chemicals which children and adolescents are especially vulnerable to. Many are carcinogens associated with leukemia, lymphoma, and glioblastoma, a brain cancer that has been popping up in baseball players and soccer goalies at unusual rates. Kids who play on the fields often refer to the rubber turds that they find themselves covered with, which is the tire crumb infill.”

Other parents — and some student-athletes — spoke about the district’s perceived athletic facility shortcomings, with some hoping a swimming pool might be included in future plans, and others, like Matt DiDonna asking for a comprehensive athletics overhaul, with the possibility of offsetting some costs with sponsorship funding.

“What awaits the athletes at our schools are dilapidated fields, broken bleachers, broken signs and other deficiencies,” said DiDonna, a lacrosse coach and member of the Town of New Paltz Planning Board. “New Paltz’s reputation is that we do not take athletics seriously and our competitors know this.”

To read the full story from Hudson Valley One, click here.