Let The Kids Play on Turf
When the City of Rye acquired land from a nursery business in 2002, it was converted to park status and became what is now known as Nursery Field. The land was graded for field use, but adequate drainage was not provided. For several years, it served its intended purpose and kids were outside playing, but this is no longer true.
Fast forward to 2023. Our population has exploded, the number of student athletes has tripled, and the demand for playable surfaces has increased. In the Northeast, where our spring and fall are besieged with wet weather, it is impossible to keep grass fields open for play as much as kids need them. It’s why neighboring communities, such as Darien, Greenwich, Harrison, New Canaan, and New Rochelle, each have three or more turf fields and counting.
For the past several years, Rye’s grass fields have failed to support our kids. They have been closed for hundreds of hours in the spring and fall and will soon be closed to rest until mid-April. These closures impact thousands of our kids who, instead of being outside running around with their friends, are more likely to be inside, alone, and on a screen.
Many have called for Nursery Field to remain grass with improved drainage. Grass is not a good solution if you care about kids playing more. Even if $1+ million was spent to improve the drainage on Nursery Field, it is anticipated that would only provide 15 to 20 additional days of play each year. The field would still need to be closed when it rains, in the off-season to rest, and in the early spring when the weather is wet and cold. Worst of all, because Nursery Field is scheduled for over 30 hours of use each week, the investment in the field would literally and figuratively be trampled into the ground within a few short years.
Using the $2.2+ million pledged to Let The Kids Play, Rye can provide kids with hundreds of extra days of play. Further, turf fields are less expensive to maintain than grass fields and can stay open year-round. Turf fields in 2023 are fully recyclable, do not contain PFAS and have natural infill.
Rye has seen its fair share of storms and hurricanes. When significant rain falls in a short period of time, it can have a devastating effect on our community. Nursery Field itself has never flooded in any of these storms. In fact, if you drive by during a storm, cars are stored in the parking lot as it’s considered high ground in Rye. The proposed field will be even higher than what is there now. It will not be in the flood plain.
Further, the current grass field does not store its own water. When it rains, the water runs off the field into surrounding areas which contributes to the flooding of our neighbors along Milton Road. The proposed turf field will act as a “storm management” system. It is designed to hold rain that falls onto it, store it underneath the field, and slowly release it at the best identified location. A field this size is estimated to hold 8 inches of rain, about 66,000 gallons of water.
Many continue to say, “Why Nursery?” Well, Sterling Field and the Rye High School Upper Field are too small to accommodate a full-sized playing field. Disbrow is big enough, but it is used for baseball and softball. The elementary schools either do not have the space or do not want to disturb their recess area. That leaves Rye Rec and Nursery as the only two viable options. Rye Rec is a high-functioning multi-purpose field that serves a variety of uses, drains well, and offers the ability to rotate the field to avoid overuse in one location. By comparison, Nursery Field drains poorly, has one of the highest cancellation rates of any field in town, and cannot be rotated.
The review of Nursery Field as a potential site has not been casual or cursory. City staff hired two independent engineering firms to analyze the project. The hydrology study stated that a turf field in that location will not make stormwater management worse in that area. The GZA environmental study stated that a turf field at Nursery will in no way harm the neighboring wetlands. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office stated it will not harm the nearby historical locations.
We have been patient, consistent, and respectful, but we will not sit idly by and allow the minority opposition to delay this until it dies. If they succeed, it will be thousands of kids who pay the price.
Let The Kids Play board members Scott Alberi, Caitlin Colvin, Chris Cunningham, Bill Curran, Brett Ehrlich, Milly Keighery, Andrew Layng, Gavin Molinelli, Matthew Pymm, and Chris Watson