Encouraging Public to Say No to Plans for Plastic Grass at Hilltop Park
To the Editor:
I am writing to let readers know that public comments about the Princeton Recreation Commission’s plans for Hilltop Park are expected to be heard at the Commission’s virtual meeting via Zoom on Thursday, March 25, at 7 p.m.
Almost a year ago, in April 2020, the Princeton Recreation Commission awarded a contract to Suburban Consulting Engineers, Inc. to begin plans to expand the 11.1-acre park on Bunn Drive. In addition to improved lighting, bleachers, and walkways, plans also include the installation of a multi-purpose synthetic turf field. There was little public comment at the time.
Unfortunately, in April 2020, Princeton residents were not paying attention — they were focused on managing their lives, and the lives of their children, during COVID-19, which had reared its ugly head just the month before.
Many parents object to their children playing on synthetic turf because of its reputation for causing sports injuries. But there is another issue that residents may not be aware of: The cost.
The current work scheduled for Hilltop Park is estimated to cost between $1 to 1.5 million. A grant from Mercer County of $500,000 will offset the project, but Princeton residents will pay the balance, now and into the future. Synthetic turf needs to be replaced every 10 years; one playing field costs $500,000 to replace.
The weather is warming up, which means that plans for Hilltop will start moving ahead. In 2008, residents lobbied against the installation of synthetic turf at Barbara Smoyer Park, and won. One resident asked a question that is worth repeating here: “As Princeton embarks on a path to sustainability, is plastic grass really the kind of footprint we want to leave on this community?”
Residents can join the Princeton Recreation Commission’s March 25 meeting via Zoom. A meeting link will be posted prior to that date at princetonnj.gov. Check your local media sources or the website of the newly-formed A Better Princeton Now (abpnow.org), a newly formed group of concerned residents, to confirm the exact time. I am not a member of A Better Princeton Now, but I agree with their concerns.