Tiptoeing into the turf debate | AspenTimes.com

Tiptoeing into the turf debate

Janet Urquhart

There’s something inherently troubling with the notion that plastic grass makes better sense than the real stuff at Wagner Park.

Actually, there’s a strong argument to be made

for artificial turf, it’s just difficult to articulate without coming off like you’ve just advocated raping and pillaging the wilderness. That’s why I’m not advocating it at Wagner Park.

Still, I’ve gotta admit I was mightily impressed with fake grass after sprawling on it during a fact-finding mission (i.e. day out of the office) to Vail and Edwards earlier this week.

Natch, the fact that a school in Vail has installed the turf on its athletic field is a strike against it. Aspen loves to despise Vail almost as much as it loves its grass.

But, I’ve got to say, the plastic grass was clean, cushy and comfy. It was better than bedroom slippers on my bare feet, but then, it was April, not August. The experts say it may have to be sprinkled down on hot afternoons to prevent a walking-on-coals sort of experience.

The field in Edwards was posted with a host of no-nos: no gum, no smoking, no glass, no dogs, etc. Frankly, I’m not crazy about walking through the residue of any of the above, anyway, but nothing will mow down a proposal for Wagner Park faster than a dog ban. It’s our apartments that won’t accommodate pets, not our parks.

Practically speaking, poop on plastic is no worse that poop anywhere else, but there’s a sense that the residue blends in better on natural turf. And, you know, what you can’t see can’t hurt you.

But the toughest psychological hurdle for me is the idea that fake grass is more environmentally friendly than the real thing. The blades are made of recycled plastic and the base of fine rubber pellets is manufactured from recycled tires.

Installing artificial turf at Wagner would reportedly save more than a million gallons of water annually. In addition, natural sod requires mowing, trimming, aerating and fertilizing – all practices that have environmental consequences.

And, the next time you’re plopped in the freshly mowed grass at Wagner, keep in mind the list of ingredients in the fertilizer contract the city just approved for its parks: stabilized urea, meat, bone and blood, meal, sulfate of potash, yeast, sugars, carbohydrates and humus, ammoniacal nitrogen, and urea nitrogen (stabilized with dicyandiamide and “n-butyl” thiophosphoric triamide).

I don’t know what half of that means, but I did look up “urea” in the dictionary and found this: “a soluble weakly basic nitrogenous compound that is the chief solid component of mammalian urine and an end product of protein decomposition.”

Makes you think twice about parking your ass in the real grass, no?

Janet Urquhart likes the smell of a freshly mowed lawn. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com