City Council shuts down resolution against artificial turf

PHOTO: Barbara Brousal-Glaser ran a booth gathering signatures against artificial turf at this year’s Earth Day Festival at Newton North High School. Photo by Bryan McGonigle

As summer’s heat looms on the horizon, the artificial turf debate is heating up budget discussions.

The City Council went through the mayor’s FY2025 budget plan Monday night department-by-department, and although they approved funding requests for every department without conflict and later voted to approve the budget as a while, there was a resolution about artificial turf that got a lot of discussion.

The resolution—submitted by councilors Randy Block, Julia Malakie, Andreae Downs, Bill Humphrey, Andrea Kelley and Pam Wright—called on the city to stop using artificial turf and stop a plan to install it on Albemarle Field.

The field turf replacement is a project funded with ARPA funds.

There has been debate locally and nationwide about the use of artificial turf on fields used by children. Opponents cite environmental and health concerns, while advocates say it saves the city money and maintenance.

“It’s easy to think of this in bureaucratic terms—how many fields do we have, how many do we needs, how much do we spend on maintenance with one type or another type, how many injuries do we get with one type or another type—and behind this all are the children who play on it,” Block said. “So I ask you, when you think about this resolution, think about those kids.”

Converting Albemarle to artificial turf allows it to be used by athletics teams, giving Newton South High School two fields.

Councilor Alison Leary said the city doesn’t have enough fields and relying on grass fields is “just not practical” because of the maintenance needed.

“I’m just not prepared to push out this important field—which will make a big improvement in terms of more of our athletes, our school-aged athletes as well as adults—to be able to use this field year-round at minimal cost to the city,” Leary said.

Leary said single-use plastics should be eliminated instead of artificial turf.

Councilor Martha Bixby said she understood perspectives on both sides but was voting in favor of the resolution to give voice to parents who are concerned about potential harm artificial turf can bring.

Bixby said her kids play on the fields, and she appreciates the fields for allowing her kids to play soccer, but the fake grass often follows them home.

“They have come home from turf fields absolutely in little green blades of plastic, because it is a sort of single-use product in that those blades attach themselves and come home and end up in our washing machines and in the water stream,” Bixby said. “I’ve had to pick blades of plastic out of children who have skinned knees on turf fields in Brookline, and literally today a friend of my son’s came home with an infected knee and bruised bone from a turf field accident this weekend.”

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission voted in favor of the artificial turf project at Albemarle.

The resolution to stop the artificial turf failed Monday night, with 13 against, 10 in favor and 1 abstention.