Mill Valley considers artificial turf for sports fields

  • The Hauke ​​Park softball field in Mill Valley on Thursday, December 2, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • The grass football fields at Bayfront Park in Mill Valley on Thursday, December 2, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • Closed football fields at Hauke ​​Park in Mill Valley on Thursday, December 2, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • The baseball field at Mill Valley Parks and Recreation Center in Mill Valley on Thursday, December 2, 2021 (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

  • A football goal sits on a closed court at Bayfront Park in Mill Valley on Thursday, December 2, 2021. (Sherry LaVars / Marin Independent Journal)

Mill Valley officials are considering installing sod on some of the city’s seven athletic fields due to the drought.

The Parks and Recreation Commission discussed the sod installation on Wednesday and asked staff to research its viability at Bayfront Field, Bell-Ropers Field, Alto Field, Hauke ​​North Field and Hauke ​​South Field. The fields are used for sports such as baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and football.

“This report is just the start of a discussion, hopefully. And the conclusions are pretty open-ended, ”said Anthony Boyd, superintendent of operations.

The city has estimated that it uses 10 million gallons of water per year to maintain seven fields: Friends Field at Mill Valley Middle School, Bayfront Field, Bell-Ropers Field, Hauke ​​North Field, Hauke South Field, Alto Field and Boyle Field. Irrigation is the city’s largest use of potable water.

The fields total 497,000 square feet of irrigated land. Irrigation comes from the municipal water district of Marin and reclaimed water.

The synthetic turf project aims to limit the city’s water consumption and water costs in the years to come, as the drought is expected to continue. The commission said the sod was a year-round surface, so it could generate funds for the city during times when the grass fields were typically closed for the winter and spring.

Much of the meeting was devoted to weighing the pros and cons of each area. A variety of factors were seen as barriers for each of the fields, including the source of irrigation, the year of most recent renovation, the size of the field, permitting agencies such as the Conservation and Development Commission of the San Francisco Bay Area, property and cultural artifacts. on construction sites.

Boyd recognized that no area presented an easy opportunity for conversion.

“It begs the question of what we’re trying to achieve with artificial turf,” Boyd said.

The city said in order for a field to be considered artificial turf, it must be large enough to accommodate a full-size soccer field, or 75,000 square feet. During discussions, the commission combined Hauke ​​North Field and Hauke ​​South Field, as well as Bayfront Field and Bell Ropers Field, to overcome the size requirement.

Hauke ​​North, for example, uses reclaimed water and would require an amendment to the Mill Valley Bayfront master plan, which bans sports on Sundays. The field also has a cultural artifact site and section owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and is under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

Bayfront and Bell-Ropers Field were also recently renovated and would require the reopening of the Bayfront master plan. Alto Field is located on the campus of Edna Maguire Elementary School and has a cultural burial site in the area.

Boyd said he was unsure of the exact location of the burial grounds and sites of cultural significance in the grass fields.

“They are not identified because, to be frank, they fear looting graves,” said Sean McGrew, director of arts and recreation.

If sod is installed, Boyd said, crews should “exercise caution” not to disturb the artifacts. He said he thinks they’re below the “top few inches” that the crews would be working on.

“Any work on these fields should be managed very carefully,” Boyd said, relating to the cultural burial site.

Lucina Vidauri, founder of the Coast Miwok of Southern Marin Project, a nonprofit advocacy group, said she was unaware of any burial sites at Alto Field. She said there are dozens of them across the county and some are not well documented.

She said if areas with known sites are excavated, the areas could be recognized with some sort of plaque or historical marker.

“They’re already known, so it’s done,” she said. “You wouldn’t really want to dig him up at this point, but honor him and recognize him. We must preserve history.

The recommendations are preliminary. The overall goal of reducing irrigation water consumption means that other options can be compared in terms of costs and benefits, including underground irrigation or wells.

“I think we should include all of those possibilities,” Boyd said.

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