Artificial Turf on a Sunny Day

The Finance Committee approved the City of Malden’s plan to rip out all the natural, live grass from Salemwood School yard, Roosevelt Field, and pave it with plastic. While the plastic is also colored  green, and you can run around on it, artificial turf lacks the benefits of real, live, natural grass, nor is it preferred by athletes, especially on sunny days.
Just for fun, my 6 year old and I decided to get out my student thermometer from my middle school science teaching days and go measure the temperature difference on different surfaces. Here it is, Saturday morning, which The Weather Channel verified as a pleasant, sunny 70 degrees.
Seventy degrees, breezy, sunny. A lovely blue sky. The perfect day to be out. Here is a thermometer in the shade, (where temperature from official weather reports is also measured.) It reads 69 F. So far so good.
On live, real natural grass and clover, in the direct sun, the temperature goes up to 79 or 80 F and stops. It feels warm in the sun, but still breezy and comfortable.
For accuracy, I cool the thermometer in the shade between measuring other surfaces.
On pavement, the temperature goes up to 92 F and stops.
On the artificial plastic turf field, the temperature shoots up to 102 F and stops.
While waiting the standard two minutes for the thermometer to register, I can feel the heat coming up through my shoes, like I’m standing on a broiler, or in a pizza oven. Its uncomfortably hot. The breeze doesn’t relieve the alarming sensation of heat radiating up through my feet. My 6YO goes over to the score board (the only source of shade) to wait until its time to take the photo, until the thermometer stops rising.

Now, this is a 70 degree day, in the morning. In the shade or on live grass, it should be perfectly pleasant out. But standing on artificial turf, its actually over THIRTY degrees warmer, 102 F, and I am uncomfortably hot within two minutes. The temperature is even hotter than on asphalt!


Mine is just anecdotal observation, but scientific data is abundant. What happens in the hottest part of the school day? How about during a heat wave? On those occasions, even artificial turf manufacturers warn of heat-stress related illness, and recommend athletes leave the field. After two minutes standing on broiling hot plastic, anyone can see why.


As an urban parent of school-aged children, I am not comfortable with asking urban public school children to accept broiling hot plastic turf as their lot in life. As a former middle school science teacher, I am not comfortable robbing our kids of a whole schoolyard of real live grass, and all its comforts, benefits, its oxygen, its air purification, its cooling effect, and its nature. As a citizen of a democracy, I am not comfortable with robbing my whole neighborhood of this field of natural live grass, an important antidote to the urban heat island effect. Many cities are pro-actively seeking ways to mitigate the deadly, increasing temperatures and frequency of summer heatwaves. Planting green roofs, pulling up asphalt and planting more trees and gardens are among the innovative solutions. Removing large areas of living green space to pave them with heat-intensifying plastic turf is NOT on the list of ways to mitigate the urban heat island effect.


I am also not comfortable with giving the burden of disposal of this giant plastic rug when it need to be replaced before it is paid for, and for locking our future into an questionable choice that many communities are regretting. The Community Preservation Act prohibits the use of CDC funds for artificial turf,  because the reason for this law is to preserve a community’s natural assets. For our growing children, for our community, for our financial future, for our climate, local and global, I urge the Malden City Council to value natural live grass as a natural asset that it is, and to use CDC funds for what they were meant to do: maintain natural, real live grass at the Roosevelt Field at the Salemwood schoolyard.


On Tuesday, June 11, at 7 PM, the Malden City Council will hold a public comment hearing on proposed expenditures to provide residents with an opportunity to express objections or support for specific expenditures or programs, or to propose new initiatives. The finance committee has appropriated $1,450,000 to pay costs of design and construction of artificial turf field at Roosevelt Park and to meet this appropriation, the Treasurer, with approval of the Mayor is authorized to borrow said amount. You are invited to attend and share your thoughts for the record.