Key Biscayne

Key Biscayne council reconsiders artificial turf on the Village Green

The Key Biscayne Village Council reconsidered a past motion to resurface the south end of the Village Green park with artificial grass after residents expressed concerns over toxic and carcinogenic substances in turf.

During the Jan. 18 council meeting, the council directed Village Manager John Gilbert to send requests for proposals to resurface the south end of the Village Green with artificial turf and the north end with natural grass.

Last week, the council put that decision on hold after some residents asked the village to do more research on the potential toxicity of artificial turf.

Married couple Alejandro Zizold and Cristina Figueredo-Zizold of Key Biscayne asked the council to reconsider resurfacing the park with artificial turf, citing studies possibly linking materials in artificial turf to cancer and other health issues.

“As there are no long-term studies, there are many unanswered questions that parents need to have answered concerning the safety and health risks of artificial turf fields especially where children are concerned,” Cristina Figueredo-Zizold said.

This concern comes from the crumb rubber used as infill in artificial turf. Studies from environmental and health organizations across the country have found that crumb rubber contains volatile organic compounds and other chemicals that can be inhaled or ingested by athletes playing on artificial turf fields. Still, studies do not conclude that there are elevated health risks associated with exposure to these chemicals.

Even so, the Zizolds hope the council will reconsider their decision and resurface the entire Village Green with natural grass.

“The Village Green is our Central Park. It is the heart and lungs of our community,” Alejandro Zizold said.

Jackie Kellogg, part-time director of the Key Biscayne Soccer Club, offered a different point of view. She asked the council to consider the thousands of gallons of water that would be needed to irrigate the Village Green if it were resurfaced with natural grass.

“It’s a waste of resources,” she said. “Artificial turf is the future.”

The council is considering several options: resurfacing the Village Green with artificial turf, resurfacing with artificial turf that has organic infill like coconut husks or cork instead of crumb rubber infill and resurfacing the green with natural grass. Resurfacing with natural grass would require rotating the fields for maintenance purposes and possibly cutting sports programming.

“To entertain thoughts of cutting back on sports programs ... I’ll be the first person to move off the island,” Kellogg said. “We don’t want to do that.”

Council member Luis de la Cruz was involved in youth sports for about 15 years when his sons were growing up. He said he never would have wanted to switch from natural grass to artificial turf, but with the amount of use the Village Green gets, artificial turf is the only option to meet the needs of the community.

“I am absolutely opposed to cutting down on programming and I will not support it,” he said. “Our kids need to play sports. We need to keep them busy.”

The parks and recreation department will look into alternatives to crumb rubber artificial turf fields and bring back new recommendations to the council for the April 4 meeting.