Letter to the Editor: Synthetic Turf Proves ‘Safe, reliable, durable’

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We are very excited about the Grove Street project that we have been working on for over three years. This project will ultimately provide the school community with two new state-of-the- art synthetic turf playing fields just 5 minutes away from our Upper School campus. In a later phase, we plan to build a field house with a gym, restroom facilities, and common spaces for team rooms and student/family gatherings.

However, this does not tell the whole story of the project. A very important part of the project is a joint-use arrangement we have negotiated with the Town of Watertown. This agreement allows for BB&N teams to use the two fields at Watertown’s 14-acre Filippello Park, which is right next to our property, after school each day.

In return, Watertown residents will have access to our playing fields later in the day, after our programs are done, as well as on some weekend days. Our motives for reaching this “win-win” agreement were twofold:

1. This expanded collection of fields will allow us to create much kinder, friendlier after- school schedules for the wide array of student- athletes in Grades 6-12, plus their families. We often simplify this as the “Get Home in Time for Dinner” concept.

2. Thinking beyond just our own school needs exemplifies our commitment to the school’s core value of Principled Engagement. For well over a century, the school has been proud to be a valued member of our local neighborhoods, and we believe that our students and the whole school community benefit when we truly engage and partner with our neighbors, as opposed to cloistering from them.

Of course, we know and understand that partnering with a neighboring town such as Watertown doesn’t automatically guarantee every single resident will agree with all aspects of the plan. And indeed, some Watertown residents have expressed concern about our plan to install a synthetic turf system at the Grove Street athletic complex.

We’d like to outline what our process has been in deciding on synthetic turf and the reasons why turf is the best choice to provide a safe, reliable, durable, and usable surface for our students and anyone else who will use the fields.

As with any project we undertake, our highest priority by far is ensuring the safety of our students. With the help of environmental experts, we dug deeply into the safety issue with respect to synthetic turf. They confirmed that there are no peer-reviewed studies that support anything other than the safety of synthetic turf fields for athletic play.

Our consultants also reviewed any information shared with us by concerned residents, which relied heavily on anecdotal data. Ultimately, our consultants’ final report relied on scientific, peer-reviewed research, which you can read in depth on our Grove Street project webpage at bbns.org/about/grove-street-project.

The synthetic turf system we plan to install at the Grove Street property is the same that’s been in place at the Upper School’s Franke Field since 2015. The excellent experience of our athletics program practicing and playing on Franke Field for the past seven years has proven how safely and effectively the surface works for our athletes.

Durability and usability are two other key reasons why synthetic turf is the best choice for the Grove Street project. A turf system means that athletes can spend three times more hours playing safely on the field than if it were a natural grass surface. This is an essential data point to make possible the amount of field hours required by our various teams and Watertown’s youth teams.

In addition, with a synthetic turf field, we can plow the fields in winter and use them for an extended season, as is often necessary given the infamous variability of our New England weather.

We hope that you are as excited about this project as we are.

—Head of School Dr. Jennifer Price and Chief Operating & Financial Officer Dr. Tara Gohlmann