Opinion: Regional Athletic Fields: Invest In Resources To Create Assets
Resolve The Concerns Laid Out In The Letter From The Regional School Leadership To The Amherst Town Council
In a letter to the Amherst Town Council dated November 22, 2022, Superintendent Morris and Athletic Director Victoria Dawson listed the six areas of concern over the athletic field conditions at the Regional High School and Middle School. These district leaders have mapped out a path that would provide ample, playable sports fields that will constitute an investment to build those resources into useful and reliable assets.
The details of that restorative path should be created from research on effective management of grass fields, applying those methods to our fields, then incorporating the more recent science of organic management of natural turf.
This approach can be effective, safe, reliable and fiscally sustainable. The November 22 letter delineated the problems which prompted the Regional School Committee’s (RSC) choice to install artificial turf inside the track at the high school. But all the regional athletic fields have deteriorated beyond the point of playability, not just the one inside the track.
The RSC should use available funding to institute a program that renovates these fields and provides ongoing organic maintenance to assure the restoration of playability, the nurturing of the soil, and the strengthening of the root systems of the grasses – using blends of grass varieties that are being planted and maintained organically around our state and around our country. The organic approach eliminates the danger of soil fertility depletions caused by chemical fertilizers and the pollution and health risks from exposure to pesticides.
If the regional district invests in personnel, consultants, and materials and institutes this program in collaboration with the Amherst Department of Public Works, those initial costs will eventually return to a level that can be afforded by the four-town regional district, the Town of Amherst, and privately donated monies.
This approach is fiscally sustainable and a better choice than the expensive and short-term solution provided by artificial turf. And it should be noted again that the artificial solution delivers playability to only one of the many athletic fields adjacent to the Regional Middle and High Schools.
This asset-building approach should be chosen by the RSC to assure the support of athletic programs in a manner that is effective, safe, reliable and respects the investments of local taxpayers.
Tom Fanning is a resident of Pelham