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Artificial turf being kicked around for youth football field

August 24, 2006|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Extensive wear and tear on a football field used by youth football teams has Washington County talking about whether it makes sense to install artificial turf at Martin L. "Marty" Snook Memorial Park in Halfway.

The cost of the turf runs from about $750,000 to $1 million, County Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said by telephone Monday.

County staff and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has been discussing the artificial turf idea for a few months, Nipps said.

Nipps is a member of the Parks and Recreation Board.

County Buildings, Grounds and Parks Director Jim Sterling said Wednesday that Washington County Junior Football League plays 122 games in about three months on the field, which is about two or three games a day four days a week during football season.

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With playoffs and other special football games, the total number of games played there is more than 150," league President Donnie Davis said.

No more than 30 to 35 games a year should be played on a field to maintain a good surface, Sterling said.

"After the second week, they're playing on strictly mud up and down the middle of the field," Sterling said. "It just turns to mud real quick."

Davis said the league does its best to maintain the field, but parents have complained to him about the field.

Parents said they were concerned about the mud and safety, and would like a nice place for their children to play, Davis said.

Nipps and Sterling said the county is weighing the pros and cons of artificial turf.

They pointed to the high initial costs of the turf and the high costs to maintain it. On the other hand, it holds up better than a grass field, they said.

Nipps said an artificial turf field could be used around the clock every day of the year.

Sterling said the county would have to replace the surface about every 10 years, which could cost about $400,000 to $500,000.

That would require the county putting aside $40,000 to $50,000 a year, he said.

"We're looking at things, but it's kind of hard to justify that in a park setting," Sterling said.

If artificial turf were approved, the county would try to pay for it with Maryland Program Open Space (POS) money, he said.

POS dollars are used for park, recreational and conservation projects, according to the state.

Sterling said another option to reduce use on the field is to acquire land and build more fields.

"One way or another, we need to provide fields for kids, and it's just a matter of how we're going to do that," Nipps said.

Davis said he supports artificial turf for the field, saying it would be safer for the players and easier to maintain.

Artificial turf doesn't need to seeded, cut and rolled, and it drains better than regular grass, Davis said.

He said because artificial turf attracts heat, it's not as hard during cold weather. The footing also is better, because there's no mud that might cause ankle or back injuries.

"The potential is greater when you're playing in the mud, and if you got standing water on the field," Davis said.

Davis said he knows artificial turf is costly, but the benefits outweigh the negatives.

"I hope it does become a reality," he said. "I'm very much in favor of it.

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