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Keep Treating Fields With Synthetics

The Barrington Parks and Recreation Commission endorses the current playing field maintenance program that relies primarily on synthetic grass-growing products.

The Parks and Recreation Commission endorsed Barrington’s playing field maintenance program Monday night, July 2, which relies primarily on synthetic materials to grow grass.

With the endorsement, the commission rejected a proposal by the Conservation Commission to begin fertilizing and managing playing fields primarily with organic pesticides and herbicides.

The BEST (Barrington Environmentally Safe Turf) proposal was sent to the recreation commission by the Town Council for evaluation and a recommendation after it was presented to the councilors by Cynthia Fuller, chair of the Conservatino Commission. 

The board voted unanimously to stick with the current field management program after more than 90 minutes of review and a presentation by John Requinha, assistant superintendent in the public works department in charge of field maintenance.

‘We’re already above the state requirements,” said Renquinha in keeping the fields as safe as possible for children using the fields. “But we’ll do whatever you and the Town Council want us to do.”

The biggest issue the DPW faces, Renquinha said, “is getting grass to grow."

And there was widespread praise among the commission members for the quality of the natural turf at Barrington’s almost 59 acres of playing fields with the current program.

The existing field-management program costs about $35,000 a year using primarily synthetic products, he said. A switch over to mostly organics would almost quadruple the price to about $120,000.

Organic products also don’t do as good a job of growing grass, said Renquinha, even at the higher price. That could mean actually shutting down a field or two or coming up with a standard for the fields that everyone would be willing to tolerate, he said.

George Finn, athletics director for Barrington High School, said the primary issue for him is safety for the athletes who use the fields. And synthetic products make safer fields with less injuries.

“A strong plant is a safer surface,” Finn said.

The commission also agreed that there does not seem to be a hue and cry in the community for organic products to be used on the fields.

“Where is the outcry?” said Mike Seward, chairman of the commission. “None seems to be out there.”

Renquinha said the current field-maintenance program does not shut the door on anything, including organics. It already is testing organic products at the Little League field behind the Sowams School. And DPW tested a 50-50 mix of organic-synthetic fertilizer at the playing fields at the middle school with less than satisfactory results.

“We’re already moving in that direction,” he said of incorporating more organic products into its program, which treats every field in a customized way.

Seward made the motion to send a statement to the Town Council that endorses the DPW program. It will state: “We all want safe fields. And with limited playing space and a lack of complaints, the best and most practical program for safe fields is one that stresses turf quality.”

In short, that program is being operated by DPW right now.

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