Opinion: Wayland must revitalize current sports fields after rejection of new turf

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Credit: Emily Roberge

WSPN’s Emily Roberge discusses the impacts of the decision not to implement the turf field at Loker Elementary School.

Emily Roberge

On Saturday, May 15 at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 16, town meeting was held to vote on several articles, one being an additional multipurpose turf field near the Loker Elementary School. After voting finished, the community learned that no additional turf fields would be implemented within Wayland. This represents a large loss to not only the aspiring athletes of the community but youth involvement in sports.

At some time or another, we’ve all participated in sports. Whether it was our parents coaching us in kindergarten soccer, our first little league game or our first goal in lacrosse, sports teach us life lessons. Some of my best memories growing up were on the soccer fields of Claypit Hill or the grass fields behind the high school bleachers. Without another turf field in town, there is the possibility that young athletes will not have access to the many opportunities that I had within Wayland youth sports, given the current fields continuously diminishing. Young Wayland athletes may be missing out on the necessary components to succeed in their athletic endeavors. Sports give athletes the ability to work with others, learn how to compete with others and most importantly, understand the significance of working hard. Aren’t these skills we want to see in the youth of Wayland?

Through my time in youth lacrosse and town soccer, I made friends from different elementary schools. These are connections I never would have had if I hadn’t participated in youth sports. These extra friends made the transition from elementary school to middle school much easier as I already knew a few familiar faces from the other elementary schools. Even today, I reminisce about early sports memories with friends. Those memories may seem small, but they went a long way in my childhood.

Of course, the turf field at the Loker Conservation had its share of downsides. It would come at an exceptionally high cost between $2,500,000 through $2,700,000, and it could harm the local ecosystems. With environmental concerns at the top of the list, how else do we plan on having sufficient room for youth sports? The environmental and health concerns of synthetic turf are of the utmost importance, but when can we make a change as a community? If we aren’t going to pass this article, then what can we do instead to improve youth sports within the community without a costly effect on the environment? The rest is in the hands of Wayland residents.

Currently, the youth athletic fields of Wayland are exhausted and in poor condition. Without this extra multipurpose turf complex, Wayland is left with just one turf field at the high school and several grass fields around town that are in ruins, to say the least. These fields pose additional safety risks as many of them have rocks and large holes within them. So, we must have a backup plan for how we can continue to have youth programs adequately and safely play on these fields. One possibility is the community could provide more spending on maintenance of these fields since the multipurpose turf field will not be implemented. This is a major setback and disappointment to our youth sports programs; however, it may be a wake-up call to the environmental concerns within Wayland.

Another action that could be taken in the maintenance of the fields would be local Wayland businesses teaming up with youth sports programs. This could mean local landscape companies could work with various Wayland youth sports programs to keep the fields in optimal condition, or residents could regularly check up on the conditions of the fields. This would create stronger connections between local businesses and youth sports, and it would also generate more youth participation in sports.

As of right now, 6,000 people of all ages utilize Wayland’s fields, with these people averaging around 800 to 1,000 hours of play each year. Given the current condition of the fields, many of them cannot withstand the constant usage. For example, at Claypit Hill Elementary School, the town has closed down two of the fields due to poor conditions. This is yet another reason why we must work harder as a community to maintain the fields, whatever that may take. When I was in my elementary school years of youth sports, the Claypit Hill fields were in terrible condition. As I complete my sophomore year of high school almost seven years later, nothing has changed.

Wayland sports have been pivotal for many. Not only have they allowed athletes to have fun, but they have provided lifelong memories and lessons for many. With the rejection of the turf field, we must now focus more than ever on what we do have currently for sports spaces. This issue will not resolve itself quickly; we must take the necessary steps to revitalize what we have lost. We must work our best to make sure that every child gets their fair share of youth sports and everything it has to offer.