Sledding Hill & Trees Threatened to Make Room for Artificial Turf

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The Oak Park Park District Board is being asked to re-consider plans to remove the sledding hill and mature trees along the field at Ridgeland Commons in order to make room for installation of artificial turf on the field.  Upon learning of the plan to remove the sledding hill, the Testore family of Oak Park started a petition through Change.org with the context that, "The sled hill provides free enjoyment and exercise for Oak Parkers ages 2-92, those who play organized sports and those who do not."  The Petition states simply: look-deep-into-nature

"To:  The Oak Park Park Board

We, the undersigned, respectfully ask you to please reconsider your plans to remove the sled hill at Ridgeland. Thank you very much."

The petition now has over 500 signatures on it.

One of our Oak Park Treekkeepers, Kathryn Jonas, made a similar request but along with it sent a very detailed letter itemizing all of the reasons that she felt that the sledding hill should not be demolished, including the following:

* The sledding hill has provided generations of Oak Park children with an outdoor winter activity, and many continue to come back (including my 26 year old daughter who still sleds there with friends, and hopes to sled there some day with her children) * The opportunities for unstructured outdoor play should be increased according to all research, not decreased by eliminating the hill * Sledding is an affordable activity - all you need is a sled - or as many kids over the years have demonstrated, a flattened cardboard box from the alley * By its very name, Ridgeland Common should be considered a commons, a place for all to use and enjoy, not exclusive to those on a team sport.

Kathryn also makes the point that a few more trees at the top of the hill along the tracks would make a nice addition to the 2 existing, mature, very healthy hackberry trees that are now slated for demolition.  "There are already too many artificial things in kids' lives today." concludes Kathryn in separate comments.

The report on “The Future of Ridgeland Commons” included through a link in the VOPeNew on Friday, March 8th, states that, “In order to install the synthetic turf sports fields the sled hill will be removed at Ridgeland Commons . . .”  According to a New Jersey study, artificial turf also comes with “a host of established and potential health and environmental risks.”  One of which is excessive heat.  In a variety of studies, artificial turf consistently measured 31 degrees or more, hotter than natural grass.  Chicago had 46 days (almost 7 weeks) of 90 degree temperatures or above in 2012, which means that the artificial turf would be 121 degrees or hotter.  Such temperatures can contribute to burns, dehydration and heat exhaustion.  Sources for additional information regarding possible health and environmental risks related to artificial turf are included below.  See also, related article in OakPark.com.

Submitted by:  Sally Stovall

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2265067/

http://www.njwec.org/PDF/Factsheets/fact-artificialterf.pdf

http://www.ny4p.org/research/other-reports/or-newturfwar-06.pdf