Astroturf – solution to yucky playing fields? |

Astroturf – solution to yucky playing fields?

Sarah Gonser

Most of South Shore’s 11 playing fields are not a pretty sight.

When the grassy lots are not smothered with snow, they alternately become a muddy mess or patchy with dry and dying grass. Frequent use and Tahoe’s short growing season make maintenance difficult. Once the grass turns into hard dirt, it rarely recovers until re-seeding the following spring.

Since the fields have become troublesome and expensive to maintain, parks superintendent Steve Weiss is proposing an alternative solution for current and future fields.

“Astroplay is the high-bred, next generation of Astroturf,” Weiss said. “This material is extra thick and soft. If it rains, it dries quickly. If it snows, it can be brushed clear. Theoretically, we could be playing on our fields all year round.”

Especially at a site such as Meyers landfill, the major project to be included in the Recreation Facilities Master Plan. Congressman John Doolittle, a Republican, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, have agreed to carry an appropriation bill to Congress, earmarking $1.5 million for cleanup and $1.5 million for construction at the former landfill, which is proposed as a potential site for four playing fields and a recreation facility.

Weiss said Astroplay could be the solution to several problems – besides dying grass.

At $9 a foot, covering four fields with Astroplay at Meyers landfill would cost approximately $1.8 million. Despite this cost, Weiss said the financial and recreational benefits make the investment worth while. The artificial turf would last 10 to 15 years, he said.

“I like it for Meyers because it would take care of many of the water quality concerns related to capping the dump, as well as turf maintenance,” Weiss said. “On top of that, it is a very safe and controlled surface. People know the conditions of our fields now, we can’t maintain them and they’re wearing out. With our short growing season, I think artificial grass is the answer.”

In order for Meyers landfill to become a playing field, a thick clay cap would have to be built to seal off the dump. Then the land must be graded, topsoil placed on top, along with costly methane detectors and collection wells installed.

Although expensive, this project would ultimately become necessary since the dump was never completely sealed off. In fact, only 2 to 3 feet of compacted soil covers the old garbage, according to Jon Morgan, acting director for the El Dorado County Solid Waste and Hazardous Materials department.

“If we get a landfill project going, with the Environmental Protection Agency and three jurisdictions involved, we stand a chance of cutting costs significantly,” Weiss said. “We’re looking the EPA for $1.5 million for the capping and an additional $1.5 million for construction of the recreation facility. Those funds are crucial in developing a park site because without them there would be no way we could afford it.”

Martha Barthold, director of admissions at Coleman Preparatory School in La Mesa, Calif., would agree. As one of the first to use this developed type of plastic grass, Barthold said she never once regretted the decision.

“We decided to change from grass because our field was always wet, it turned into dirt and took a long time to dry. We decided, for the sake of saving money on upkeep, and to allow children to play as much as possible, to put in this artificial grass,” Barthold said. “We’re so pleased now, we wish we’d done it 20 years ago.”

Barthold said the soft and malleable artificial turf, which sits on a cushioned layer of sand and rubber pellets, has prevented numerous injuries, as well as everyday minor scrapes and bruises. Coleman Preparatory School installed the artificial turf one year ago.

BREAKOUT: fields in town

– South Tahoe High School: two multipurpose fields and one football field

– Tahoe Valley Elementary: one multipurpose field

– Bijou Elementary: one softball and one soccer field

– Al Tahoe Elementary: two multipurpose fields

– South Tahoe Middle School: two multipurpose fields and one soccer field

– Meyers and Sierra House Elementary: one turf area at each school

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.