Parents, schools clash over artificial turf fields in Edina

Artificial turf requires little maintenance and is perfect for a city looking to add several athletic field, but parents in Edina, Minn. are concerned the little rubber beads used in the turf are harmful to kids.

Some school districts in the metro have stopped used cut up recycled tires to build playing fields, but a plan by Edina Public Schools has started a turf war in the community.

The school district is replacing four grass athletic fields – two near the community center and two at the high school – with artificial turf as part of a $124 million facilities improvement referendum approved by voters last year.

The artificial turf uses ground up recycled tires called crumb rubber between the blades of artificial grass to make the surface softer. District officials say it is easier to maintain than natural grass.

“The assessment was made we need more field space,” Superintendent Ric Dressen said. “It gets into playability, athletic activity, safety - to make sure the fields and players are safe.”

But, some parents are concerned about the toxic chemicals found in recycled tires. They started a petition to get the district to hold off on putting in the artificial turf until a national study on crumb rubber by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission is completed later this year.

“Acetone, arsenic, benzine, chromium, lead, mercury and flame retardant - those are not things i want my children to ingest,” Clover Hackett, a concerned Edina parent, said.

They presented their petition with more than 400 signatures to the Edina School Board before it decides whether to approve the groundwork for the artificial turf.

But regardless of what the school board decides, Hackett believes she's laid some groundwork of her own.

“I hope they listen to their community,” Hackett says. “There have been a lot of voices raised [and] concerns raised. Comments on our petition are strong and powerful. I just want them to listen to people.”

The school board voted to go ahead with getting the ground ready for artificial turf, despite the petition, but it will decide what kind of turf to use in the next couple of months.