Meadowdale neighbors are taking steps to urge the City of Lynnwood not to use crumb rubber on new artificial turf fields to be installed at Meadowdale Playfields.
The fields will be renovated later this year. Right now, the final design is being produced. Construction bids are expected to open in May and the project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
While the plan for the fields still includes installing artificial turf for the infields of the three softball fields and the entirety of two soccer/multi-purpose fields, the infill material for those fields has not yet been determined. However, the City of Lynnwood has said that bids will include options of crumb rubber, coated crumb rubber and organic cork, with crumb rubber as the base bid.
“The project team will review and evaluate overall cost, performance, maintenance and operation costs, and replacement costs of each of the surfacing material option prior to making an infill selection recommendation,” said Sarah Olson, deputy director of the Lynnwood Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. “The project team will make a recommendation to the Edmonds School District School Board who will make the final decision and authorize the construction phase.”
Though the City of Lynnwood is heading the project, the land that the playfields sit on is owned by the Edmonds School District, so the School Board will have to approve the details of the project before construction can begin.
Neighbors who live near the park have raised concerns about the possibility of using crumb rubber in an area where children play and where wildlife lives.
“This stuff is made of toxic chemicals,” Julia Garmire, who lives near the fields, said. “We don’t want this up on our hills, draining down into our neighborhoods and yards and gardens. We don’t want the birds eating it. We don’t want the stench. We don’t want the heat. We don’t want it.”
Garmire has been letting her neighbors know about the project and urging them to tell the city and Edmonds School Board their opinions. She recently printed out a couple dozen posters with details about the project and hung them up around the Meadowdale Playfields. They were taken down a couple of days later by the Parks and Recreation department, as posters are not allowed in parks per city ordinance.
Several of Garmire’s neighbors echoed her crumb rubber concerns.
“Our backyard butts up to the west side of Meadowdale Playfields where they may put crumb rubber on the soccer and baseball fields,” Marie Schattenkerk said. “I am afraid of the toxic spill that will run down the hill into our backyard. We have grandchildren who play in the grass. We have pets that run in our yard and we also have a koi pond.”
Others support the idea of using organic cork.
“Organic cork sounds like a much better option to me,” Heather Bell said. “I think we are already exposed to so many unavoidable toxins and I try to limit them where I can.”
Crumb rubber has been a topic of debate for a few years in southern Snohomish County. After some community members protested the Edmonds School Board’s decision to use crumb rubber infill on sports fields at the Woodway Campus, the Edmonds City Council in December 2015 passed an 18-month ban on public athletic fields made with the material. The ban is scheduled to end this summer, so the Edmonds City Council and staff will be meeting soon to discuss whether to let the ban expire or extend it.
A recent study by the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) found no direct correlation between playing on crumb rubber fields and the cancer rate among soccer players. However, critics say the study uses too small of a sample size and more research needs to be done. The EPA is conducting a broader study that is expected to have results available later this year.
The study by the WSDOH also included recommendations for athletes to wash their hands and change their clothes as soon as possible after playing on crumb rubber fields. Because of those recommendations, the Edmonds School Board recently discussed installing signs at artificial fields outlining best practices for those playing on the fields.
Community members have also had concerns about tree removal and availability of the fields. Olson provided the following clarifications:
A total of 28 trees will be removed from the park for the project. They will be replaced with a total 68 new trees.
“Several trees that line the multipurpose fields to the south and east will be removed to accommodate the construction zone and trees planted near the walking path that have caused root intrusion damage to the asphalt paving,” Olson said. “All trees proposed for removal will be replaced with new trees in nearby locations in accordance with the Lynnwood Municipal Code.”
The fields will also be open to community members anytime they are not scheduled for a permitted use. Permitted uses would include teams and organizations using the field for practices, games and tournaments. If those groups are not using the fields, community members can use the fields for pick-up games or parents teaching their kids how to hit a ball, for example.
“This practice has been in place since Meadowdale Playfields was first opened,” Olson said. “With the addition of the all-weather surfacing, we anticipate the availability for community access will increase. Current conditions offer limited, seasonal availability and use of the athletic facilities including access to the basketball court, playground and walking loop trail. Once the improvements are completed, the entire complex will be available for year-round access and use.”
The fields will close at dusk each day. They may also be locked for scheduled maintenance.
–Story and photo by Natalie Covate