Nursery Field Deserves a More Thoughtful Look
In July of 2023, a member of The Friends of Nursery Field was quoted in The Rye Record as saying, “An environmental study by Woodard and Curran in 2011 concluded that Nursery Field was the worst possible place in the City of Rye to locate a synthetic turf field.” This statement was then repeated by The Record in a front-page column in December. These statements are misleading. The study did not say that.
The problem is, this takes the study out of context and a reader who has not seen the study could easily misinterpret the findings. The Woodard and Curran study evaluates the three most viable locations to put a turf field, and in its conclusion, it ranks Nursery third as a priority behind Disbrow Park and Rye Rec Park. Ranking Nursery third as a priority is very different then designating it the “worst possible place” in the City of Rye.
Meanwhile, there have been other independent studies done of Nursery Field since 2011. GZA Environmental completed a full environmental review of the proposed turf field at Nursery and the Ramboll Group did a full hydrological analysis. Both GZA and Ramboll are reputable engineering firms. They have no ties to the Synthetic Turf Council. They were not commissioned by the mayor to substantiate a particular position. Rather, they were commissioned by our City Staff and they are the same firms that our City Staff works with on other municipal projects. These reports have been available on the City Council website since October.
The Rye Record largely skipped over these independent studies in their December column. The only reference to these studies is to suggest that their results should not be trusted. The author writes, “It’s never surprising when consultants agree with those who have hired them,” and the implication is that the engineering firms hired by our City Staff delivered inaccurate findings on purpose. I don’t know why The Rye Record chose to disregard the GZA and Ramboll studies.
The outcome of Nursery Field is important for our community. It is currently closed seven months out of the year, and during the five months it is open for kids to play, it has one of the highest cancellation rates of any field in the city. Neighbors and environmentalists are concerned by the idea of turning the field into a turf field. Meanwhile, hundreds of families are confused why their kids have no playing fields available to them for much of the year, particularly because outdoor play is so fundamental to their well-being.
The Rye Record and others have suggested that the town consider improving the drainage on the field and let it remain a grass field, but it’s not clear they understand the nuances of that choice. The price tag to improve drainage at Nursery Field will be close to $1 million, and from that investment our kids will receive only 10 to 15 extra days of play a year. The grass field will still need to be closed when it rains, and it will still need to be closed in the winter and summer to rest. And because it receives so much usage during the peak season, even with improved drainage the grass on that field will quickly be worn down. By comparison, a turf field will provide as many as 200 extra days of play for our kids every year, and the surface will remain in good condition for at least 10 years, even under significant usage.
The Record mentioned that the city will be on the hook to replace the field when it breaks down. Yes, the turf field will need to be replaced in 10 years, but in that time thousands of kids will have enjoyed thousands of extra days of play. Meanwhile, grass fields require maintenance and rehabilitation also, and they serve the kids far fewer days of the year than turf fields. The question therefore shouldn’t be how the city and private donors can spend the least amount of money on fields, but what is the right balance of keeping costs low while still optimally supporting the development and health of our kids.
I understand that there are many viewpoints on the topic of Nursery Field. The primary users of Nursery Field are kids, and they are largely left out of the civic process. The kids are relying on the adults to make a good decision here.