Save Crestview Park

Crestview Park is a natural jewel located high on the ridgeline in the hills of San Carlos.  For 30 years this park has served the sports and recreational needs of both the neighborhood and the larger San Carlos community.  Unfortunately, the natural beauty and tranquility of this park is being threatened by a narrow special interest group.

This beautiful natural grass park will soon be turned to plastic!!!

  • No more young children enjoying grass between their toes.
  • No more elderly walking their leashed dogs on the surrounding paths.
  • No more picnics and parties on the only picturesque flat expanse in the San Carlos hills.
  • Once this field is turned to plastic, it will just have a single use: competitive soccer.
  • Converting this natural grass field to plastic is not a renovation.  It is a travesty!!!
Please join your fellow San Carlos citizens to keep Crestview Park natural grass.

We only have four parks left in San Carlos with natural grass fields, the community can't afford to lose any more.

Read about efforts to Save Crestview Park in the San Mateo Daily Journal.

What can I do to prevent plastic turf at San Carlos fields?

The single most important thing you can do is to reach out and contact the city leaders who will decide the fate of natural grass at Crestview Park. 

Then attend and voice your opposition to plastic turf at the following City Council meetings:
  • July 8th, Monday at 7pm - San Carlos City Hall, 600 Elm St., Council Chambers
Finally, join the supporters of this web site in our Google Group where we discuss our ideas and coordinate our efforts to save Crestview Park from being turned to plastic turf.

Our combined efforts will not only save the natural grass field at Crestview Park, but will send a strong message to stop similar future efforts at other San Carlos parks including Burton Park which is also being targeted by the same special interests for plastic turf.

Plastic turf??? Didn't San Carlos just outlaw plastic bags?

Kinda strange, huh?  Just this year the San Carlos city council outlawed plastic bags to make a statement regarding their concern for our environment and sustainability of our community.  Businesses used plastic bags because they are economical and convenient, but our city leaders through force of law told businesses that in San Carlos economic concerns must take a back seat to environmental concerns.  Now the same rationale, economics and convenience, are being used to justify replacing a beautiful natural field with plastic grass.  If the city council moves forward on the proposal to install plastic turf at Crestview Park, the hypocrisy demonstrated by our city leaders will be appalling.
What are the specific proposals being considered by the City of San Carlos?

As of early May two specific proposals for renovation of Crestview Park have been presented by consultants to the public and to the Parks & Recreation commission and can be viewed here.  These proposals vary according to how the parking lot and play structures would be renovated, but they both feature the same plan to tear out the natural grass field and replace it with plastic turf as shown below. Proposed expansion of the existing field would also include removing (6) large, well-established redwood trees, replacing their existing shade with cloth canopies.

Keep in mind that as proposed, unlike a natural grass field, a plastic turf field will soak up the hot rays of the summer sun and be uncomfortable to walk on without protection.  The city says that a sprinkler system will be installed that can be used to cool off the field, but actual experience with the plastic turf at Lower Highlands Field has demonstrated the system is seldom used and only for organized sporting events.  The general public at large will have to suffer the consequence of an uncomfortably hot field without the benefit of cooling.  However, even if the field could be cooled, activities such as picnics and walking dogs on leashes is not permitted on plastic turf fields.  

What factors are driving the conversion of Crestview Park to plastic turf?

There seem to be two major factors driving the desire by the city to convert the field to plastic turf.  The first reason offered is economics and the second reason is increasing soccer field capacity in San Carlos.

The city currently says that it currently spends about $47,000 per year on field maintenance at Crestview Park.  Converting the field to plastic turf, the city estimates the annual maintenance cost will be reduced to $7,000 per year.  However, one must also factor in the initial installation cost of the field which will cost nearly $1 million and the fact that the plastic surface only has a limited lifetime of 8 to 10 years before it must be replaced which the city estimates to be about $350,000.  If we look at the total cost of a plastic turf field over the next 10 years, it can be easily seen that the total cost will approach $1,500,000.  Instead, if the city chooses to upgrade the current natural grass field and double the maintenance expenses at the field to address field quality issues for soccer, the expenses for the field would still be considerably below that of the plastic turf.

With regards to soccer field capacity in San Carlos, this is indeed a sad fact of life for the soccer community.  In fact, not only is there a shortage of field space for soccer in San Carlos, but every other organized sport and casual recreation user suffers from lack of field capacity in San Carlos.  For a number of historical reasons the city lacks sufficient parks space for a population the size of San Carlos.  The soccer community views plastic turf at Crestview Park and at other San Carlos parks as essential for the future of their sport in this city.  Plastic turf enables them to get far more use out of an existing field.  While the lack of soccer field space in San Carlos cannot be disputed, the conversion of existing natural grass fields is the wrong approach.  Conversion destroys the character of neighborhood parks and turns them into single purpose sports venues.  This places a burden on the entire San Carlos population to support a single specific sports group.

Other communities such as Belmont, our neighbor to the north, have also suffered from chronic lack of field space for organized sports.  That city's solution was to raise funds and build the Belmont Sports Complex and Conference Center near the Ralston and 101 interchange.  This solution is the appropriate solution for San Carlos as well to address lack of field space.  Converting the few remaining natural grass fields to plastic turf in neighborhood parks is the absolutely wrong approach.

How did the Crestview Park renovation proposals come to be?

In 2012, the San Carlos City council through the Parks & Recreation department commissioned Callandar Associates, landscape architecture consultants, to create proposals for the renovation of Crestview Park with an earmarked budget of approximately $1.5 million.  The consultants were instructed that the proposals should address a specific number of key issues including parking, outdated playground equipment, picnic areas and most importantly, replacing the natural grass field with plastic turf -- by far the single largest budget item of the renovation.

It is unclear how plastic turf came to be a priority for the renovation, but it was likely through the lobbying efforts of the local soccer community leaders who had the ear of city council members and the Parks & Recreation Commissioner (who has since left his position with the city).  Based on the instructions given, the consultants dutifully drafted their proposals which were presented to the public and to the Parks and Recreation Commission in April of this year.  Two proposals were presented which presented different renovation options for parking, playground equipment, picnic areas and such, but both proposals included essentially the same plans to tear out the existing natural grass field and replace it with a plastic field.  No options to keep the field natural were presented and the consultants indicated in conversations at the public meetings that it was their understanding that the decision to move to plastic turf at Crestview Park was a "done deal".

Originally, the plan was for the consultants to introduce their renovation proposals in a single public meeting, a single Parks and Recreation commission meeting and then be submitted to the San Carlos City Council for final approval.  However, there was such a community outcry about the proposal to switch to plastic turf that the consultants were instructed to create new proposals based on community feedback.  Unfortunately, it now appears the consultants will only revisit other aspects of the plan which had some controversy such as issues with the parking lot size and reconfiguration of the basketball courts.  However, the proposal to convert the field to plastic turf, the part of the plan that raised the great majority of concern and protest from the public, was left intact without change.

So here we are in early May waiting for a new set of proposals from the consultants regarding Crestview Park.  Unfortunately, from all appearances, it seems that conversion of the natural grass field to plastic turf will remain the center point of the new proposals.  For this reason, it is important that members of the public opposed to plastic turf on San Carlos fields make their views known at the upcoming Park and Recreation commission and city council meetings.

Are we opposed to sports at Crestview Park?

Certainly not.  The sports community and neighbors of Crestview Park have gotten along for 30 years since the park opened.  Many of us are parents with children who participate in competitive soccer at the park.  What we are opposed to is having Crestview Park turned into a single purpose sports venue that will forever change the character of the park.  Plastic turf may have its place at a dedicated sports complex, but it does not belong in a community park that is meant to serve the diverse needs of the general population.  Especially in a city that is woefully short of parks and open space for the general population to use and enjoy.

After San Carlos has two plastic turf fields, won't my neighborhood park be safe?

Don't bet on it.  It is already known that even if Crestview Park is converted to plastic turf, it will only make a small dent in the lack of availability of soccer fields in San Carlos and a chronic shortage of field space will remain.  The main reason for this is that Crestview Park doesn't have lighting for nighttime play and such lighting is not part of the renovation plan.  Because weekday soccer play tends to occur late in the afternoon and early evening when kids are out of school, even when converted to plastic turf, Crestview Field will not significantly contribute to soccer field availability during winter months when it gets dark soon after 5pm.  In summer months, darkness will curtail play on Crestview when play on Lower Highlands Park continues well into the late evening.

The same local soccer lobby that is demanding that Crestview Park be converted to plastic turf will continue to demand that other fields in San Carlos be converted to plastic turf as well.  The most desired field to be targeted next is Burton Park because it already has a lighting system in place, although the night time lighting is not currently optimally positioned for soccer field use.   While the conversion of Burton Park is a longer term goal, Crestview Park is being targeted now for conversion because the City Council has earmarked budget and it can occur quickly despite being non-optimal because of lack of night time play.  If the local soccer lobby succeeds in converting Crestview Park to plastic turf due to lack of outcry by the San Carlos community, you can be sure they'll be emboldened to go after other parks as well.

What is the solution to increase field access for sports in San Carlos?

A City empaneled Citizens Committee on Athletic Fields in their 2006 report recommended that the City acquire land and build an athletic complex to help solve this problem.  The  City's Master Plan for Parks, Open Space, Buildings, and other Recreational Facilities prepared by 'Harris Design' in 2008 has an athletic complex included at a cost of $20 million.  Of course this would take a Bond Election to provide funds.  The City apparently has no plans to pursue this as it seems to interfere with other infrastructure needs being considered.  So, it appears the City is taking the 'cheap' way out by converting the City Parks to exclusive use athletic venues.  Crestview is at the forefront now.  Pending proposals are to convert Burton Park to synthetic turf to take advantage of the lights and the Stadium Field at Highlands to synthetic turf with lights.  And then of course, Arguello and Laureola may soon be on the table.  And then, to get the maximum benefit of synthetic turf fields, lights will be necessary.
If all of this happens, the residents of San Carlos someday will someday wake up and lament the loss of their parks.

What's the big deal?  Can't kids just play on plastic turf?

Theoretically yes.  Kids can play on a plastic turf field when it is not in use by organized sports.  However, as has happened at Lower Highlands Field, in practice this doesn't really occur for a variety of reasons.

First, on hot summer days plastic fields tend to soak up and accumulate the sun's heat, making playing on the surface for recreation purposes uncomfortable.  The heat issue can be somewhat mitigated if the field is watered in the morning, but experience at Lower Highlands Field has demonstrated watering of the field is seldom done, and when done, only for organized sporting events.  The field is not watered for general usage by the public.

Second, plastic turf fields are actually much more sensitive than natural grass fields to uses that many would consider normal function of a city park.  Food and non-water drinks are not permitted on a plastic turf field, thus picnics are not permitted.  The lack of a natural watering cycle makes waste from dogs a bio-hazard so dogs are not permitted on plastic turf fields even when they are restrained on leashes.  The same applies to other animals, such as deer which are prevelant at Crestview Park, so their wastes will accumulate on the field as well unless a fence similar to that which surrounds Lower Highlands Field is installed around Crestview.  For other rules which turn plastic turf into a "no fun" zone consider the field use signs below for "Lower Highlands Field". 

Is this sign what should welcome neighbors to a community park?

The end result is that once a field is turned into plastic turf, it ceases to be a general purpose community gathering spot in a natural environment. Instead becomes a single purpose field used only for competitive sports.  If you were to visit Lower Highlands Park on any day when organized sports are not occuring, you will witness only a small fraction of the individual and community activities that regularly occur at any other San Carlos park with a natural grass field.  Those of us that are neighbors of Crestview Park are horrified to see what is now a valuable community asset to both our neighborhood and San Carlos at large be turned into the functional equivalent of a Kmart Parking Lot when organized sports are not being played.

To summarize, the end result turns a community park into a giant "Red Zone" where recreation and fun is no longer permitted to preserve the sensitive plastic turf:

Plastic turf turns neighborhood parks into a "no fun" zone.

What are the health and environmental concerns with plastic turf?

As with any controversial topic, opinions on the health and environmental impact of synthetic turf fields is hotly debated by those on both sides of the issue.

University of Arkansas runs a Turfgrass Science program which researches ways to improve turf technology and management for golf courses, sports fields, and commercial and residential lawns.  They have put together information on the health and environment issues of Synthetic Turf vs. Natural Grass with links to additional information at the bottom of the page.

Why does Parks and Recreation support plastic turf on city parks?

This is indeed a mystery.  The following text was copied directly from the San Carlos Parks and Recreation web site:

Parks Make Life Better!

An extensive research study asked California citizens and public officials “Why are parks important to you?” The research, sponsored by the California Park & Recreation Society (CPRS), a nonprofit, professional and public interest organization with more than 4,000 members, was used to develop the first-ever brand of the profession. “Parks Make Life Better!” is now being launched by CPRS members statewide, including the City of San Carlos.

Overwhelmingly, survey respondents value parks and recreation as an essential community service. Virtually every California household (98%) reported visiting a park during the past year. Forty-two percent visited a park at least several days a week; 26% visited at least once a week, and 68% visited at least monthly. Of these, 55% go with spouse or partner, 53% with kids, 48% with family, 46% with a friend. Only 5% of the users indicated they go alone.

Brand Promise

CPRS used the research findings to develop the first-ever brand promise and brand identity for parks and recreation. The brand promise incorporates the benefits Californians reported as most important; the many ways parks and recreation make their lives and communities better. Specifically, parks and recreation make life better now and in the future by providing:
  • Access to the serenity and inspiration of nature
  • Outdoor space to play and exercise
  • Facilities for self-directed and organized recreation
  • Positive alternatives for youth which help lower crime and mischief
  • Activities that facilitate social connections, human development, therapy, the arts and lifelong learning
In short, parks and recreation services make Californians’ lives better.

Next time you contact a member of the Parks and Recreation department be sure to ask them how the above statement is consistent with covering an existing natural grass field with plastic turf. Particularly the part about "Access to the serenity and inspiration of nature".