Construction work is set to begin on replacing the artificial turf on the playing field next to the Wesbrook Community Centre. The turf has reached the end of its useful life.
UNA directors at their December 19 meeting voted to replace the turf using the same materials used when the field was built a decade ago.
The vote came after intense debate over what materials to use in replacing the field. At the board’s October meeting, concerns were raised over using microplastics and other synthetic materials, prompting directors to ask UNA staff to conduct further research into environmentally friendly options.
A staff report included two replacement options. Both options use synthetic materials.
A natural turf option was not considered due to a significant increase in construction time and an expected reduction in playing hours because of the extra maintenance required.
Before the vote, UNA staff told directors that a decision was needed soon to have the new field ready for the summer season.
Bill Holmes and Eagle Glassheim voted in favour of a replacement option described in the report as a blend of slit film and monofilament fibres with coated crumb rubber. Slit film fibres are durable and stand up to high traffic while monofilament fibres look like natural grass. The crumb rubber is raked through the fibres to improve footing and shock absorption and keep the fibres upright.
Murray McCutcheon, who previously expressed toxicology concerns with the existing materials, and Fei Liu, who wanted natural turf, voted against the motion.
The deadlock was broken by board chair Richard Watson, who voted in favour.
Glassheim, who had also previously expressed concern over the environmental and health impacts of synthetic materials, said efforts must be made to prevent microplastics and crumb rubber—derived from recycled tires—from entering the ecosystem through the field’s drainage system.
“One thing that we have observed walking around is that crumb rubber is coming off the field and going all over the place and going into those storm drains,” he said. “We need to keep them out of storm drains.”
Landscape architect Richard Findlay, who assessed the conditions of the field last July and was on hand at the Dec 19 meeting, said Glassheim’s observations were symptomatic of the field’s breakdown after a decade of hard use.
He said the field was initially built with sump drains, and that they will be effective in collecting crumb rubber once the field has been replaced.
The field’s replacement is estimated to cost $1 million, with the UNA covering 60 per cent funded from existing reserves, and 40 per cent funded by the Vancouver School Board.
EMMANUEL SAMOGLOU IS THE MANAGING EDITOR OF THE CAMPUS RESIDENT.