Turf Referendum Divides Essex County Town

Athletic upgrade to grace Ballot

The upcoming election on November 5th will not just decide New Jersey’s governor. For Glen Ridge residents, it will also determine whether the Essex county town’s main athletic field will upgrade its surface to synthetic turf.

The referendum to Hurrell Field in Glen Ridge was voted down six years ago in 2007, but it is up for vote once again this coming election and has created a divisive issue in the small town. The field, which is currently natural grass, is used for the majority of the town’s recreational sports, such as football and lacrosse, Glen Ridge High School football home game, and it also features a running track around it. The proposed upgrade to turf is estimated to cost around $1 million.

The multitude of different sports at different levels using Hurrell Field has caused residents to reconsider the referendum. In 2009, consultants from Rutgers came to examine the field and found it to be almost unplayable. It is for this reason that for many people, such as Glen Ridge recreation director Jim Cowen, the renovation is a no brainer.

“We just can not provide adequate fields in town with natural grass,” he explained. “We just have way too many teams with way too many kids. We have no time to rest the fields in order for them to feed properly. So if we were not to have turf it leaves us with two options: cancel some of our programs, or leave the fields as they are, and neither of those options are acceptable.”

Many parents whose children use Hurrell Field agreed with Cowen’s assessment of the situation, including Glen Ridge resident Paul Valardi.

“I support the referendum because I think it’s unfair for our children to have to play on an inferior field”, he said. “Every school we visit, every away game, is played on a better field. And I think kids are going to get hurt if they continue to play on our fields. It’s not just about my kids, it’s about the town and living in a town, and being supportive and giving our kids a chance to play on a field comparable to others.”

However, for as many “Vote Yes to Turf” signs as there are around Glen Ridge, there are still others that have a “Vote No” sign, and have their concerns about a new field.

“For my children, I’d rather they play on grass and not turf”, said four-year resident Jason Springer, whose kids play lacrosse. “Turf has a maintenance to it just like grass does, it doesn’t just sit there and you do nothing to it. There’s drainage costs, and there’s also the issue that it’s made of rubber material that I don’t really want my kids sliding up on. I’m not so concerned about the raising of taxes; if you live in Glen Ridge it’s expensive regardless.”

For residents that we’re against the renovation of Hurrell Field, safety was more of an issue than the raising of taxes. However, 26 year resident Kit Schackner was vehemently against the renovation because of cost, safety, and because she felt the proposal was brought up in a dishonest way.

“This is an amenity. It’s a luxury and not a necessity”, she said. “The number one reason people want this is to have a field that looks as good as everyone else’s. It’s also been presented with an inflated budget for keeping the grass, whereas the budget for having turf has been purposely reduced to make it look cheaper.”

Like Springer, Schackner also brought up the issue of safety, particularly of the crushed rubber under the turf as the field is used more and more.

“As the field is used more and more the rubber that sits under the turf is pulverized. It gets completely crushed into a powder which has the potential to be unsafe”, she explained. “The carbon particles that are created actually resemble asbestos.”

The issue as to whether to upgrade Hurrell Field to turf is clearly a divisive one in Glen Ridge. Many residents, especially those with kids that are in involved in athletics, are in favor of upgrading a very beat up grass field. Others remain opposed because of either the cost or the safety or both. The turf referendum was voted down by a wide margin in 2007, but it remains to be seen how the vote will turn out next Tuesday night.


Montclair State | New Jersey

Renato Peralta

TVDM student at Montclair State University.