Artifical Turf for Piper Field Clears Wetlands Hurdle
Conservation Commission approves plans to replace natural grass with synthetic turf in designated wetlands area.
The Conservation Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to approve plans by the School Committee and the Marblehead All Sports Foundation to replace the natural grass at Piper Field with a new synthetic turf.
A portion of the field is designated as a wetlands area, which required a review by the Conservation Commission.
Chris Huntress with Huntress Associates, the Andover-based landscape architect designing the new field, assured the commission that the synthetic turf would allow twice as much water to flow into the aquifer below the field than the current natural turf.
The Foundation is attempting to raise $1.3 million to replace the current turf field with an artificial turf field. The change would greatly expand the time football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams could use the field.
Last week the Foundation received permission from the School Committee to begin phase two of the design work on the new artificial turf field.
In addition to the Conservation Commission, the Foundation must also gain the approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board, which will meet in the next month on the subject.
Neighbors are concerned
Some neighbors have expressed concerns about the new field. Daniel Shae, a neighbor, told the conservation commission that some residents along Devereaux Street are worried that the new field will increase water seepage in their cellars and basements.
He said he and the other neighbors are also concerned about increased noise, lights and traffic because the new field will be used more than the natural grass field has been.
Those issues will be addressed by the Planning and Zoning boards, said attorney Bill Quigley, who is representing the Foundation.
Foundation officials met last week at the community center with the neighbors to hear their concerns and answer questions.
"We think we have our arms around the problems," Quigley said.
The field will be used more because teams now have to limit the use of the natural grass field. Also the new artificial grass field will be used by more sports than just football.
Quigley said the plans are to allow use of the new field until 9 p.m. three nights a week and 7 p.m. four nights a week during the winter. The plans are to allow the field to be used in the summer during daylight hours. No lights will be used in the summer.
He said the Foundation and school officials hope to add at least one soccer, field hockey or lacrosse game per week. Football games will still be played on Friday nights.
Huntress explained that the water will be drained from the field through 8 inches of gravel and a series of perforated pipes that remove excess water from the field.
He estimated that natural grass allows 20 to 25 percent recharge of water into the underground aquifer, while the synthetic turf, which has no roots to feed, will allow 50 percent of the water to flow through to the aquifer.
Huntress also told the commission that the artificial field would also not have to be fertilized, which would reduce the chemicals being introduced into the underground aquifer.
The Foundation is a nonprofit organization. Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to the Marblehead All Sports Foundation, Box 240, Marblehead, MA 01945 or at the group's Web site, www.marbleheadallsports.com.