City studying fake turf at Rio Grande |

City studying fake turf at Rio Grande

Janet Urquhart

Aspen will spend $15,600 studying the feasibility of installing synthetic turf at Rio Grande Park in conjunction with its plans to use the park for storm water detention, though several City Council members aren’t convinced plastic grass is right for the park.”This is nowhere near a go in the community’s mind or my mind,” said Councilwoman Rachel Richards, who voted against the expenditure on Monday, along with Councilman Terry Paulson. “I don’t think this money is necessarily well spent,” she said.On Tuesday, Paulson asked his colleagues to reconsider the vote and save the money, if the council doesn’t find the turf option palatable anyway. They declined.”I personally don’t find myself in favor of artificial turf at any of the downtown parks,” said Councilman Torre. Nonetheless, he said he’s willing to expend the money to find out if it’s a feasible option for Rio Grande.”Sometimes, it’s worth the information, just to put a bad idea to bed,” Richards added.The city had already contracted with an engineering consultant to design storm-water drainage facilities at Rio Grande Park and Jenny Adair Pond when the council began eyeing the park for the fake turf. The $15,600 will pay for additional work to evaluate the compatibility of artificial turf at a park that is also pegged to filter water in the event of a major storm, and how much it would cost to do both at the park. It could involve vaults beneath the turf to hold runoff that would otherwise sit on top of the natural grass.”We certainly cannot even consider it if we don’t do the feasibility study,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud.”I have not precluded the use of artificial turf on that park,” she said. “How do you make an intelligent decision if you don’t know if you can do it or not?”The city has been considering the installation of artificial turf at a downtown park to facilitate heavier use and more special events. A sample of the fake grass has been installed along the edge of Wagner Park (across the mall from McDonald’s) for the public to check out.Several council members have said Wagner Park isn’t the right choice for artificial turf, but that Rio Grande might be an appropriate place for it. However, Paulson said this week that he has changed his mind about considering it for Rio Grande Park.”There’s something almost sacrilegious about putting plastic in a park,” he said.Some council members suggested the turf would make more sense at an athletic field at the Aspen schools campus. Richards said she’d like to know the cost of replanting grass at Rio Grande when it’s badly damaged versus installing the turf.The latest damage at Rio Grande came during the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival. The city didn’t have to close down the park to public use after the festival, as it did in 2003, but the grass will still need time to recover from that event, according to Jeff Woods, parks director.Woods upped his estimate of damage to the park from this year’s festival to $10,000 – he had guessed $5,000 initially.”If you really look at it – we couldn’t hold another special event out there until fall,” he said. “A rugby game on there right now would wipe it out.”With the wear and tear on natural grass, Aspen’s downtown parks are already maxed out when it comes to big events, Woods added.”If you wanted to do an additional special event downtown, we can’t do it,” he said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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