GEORGETOWN, CT—Amidst a waiting game on the state’s ruling over the safety of certain artificial turf surfaces, the town has decided to move forward with a method that will immediately improve a field at the community center.

Town athletic field to undergo immediate drainage fix

The Board of Selectmen gave the Athletic Fields Committee the go-ahead to obtain a confirming bid on the cost to sand trench Field 2.

Sand trenching is when field drainage is enhanced by a series of long, narrow trenches filled with sand, allowing storm water to siphon away through the trenches to an existing storm drain. These trenches are seamless, and covered by grass.

“It’s a fascinating system and has worked well in other towns,” Selectman Don Takacs said at the Sept. 15 meeting. He is chairman of the town Athletic Fields Committee.

The cost to sand trench half of Field 2 — the half most affected by wet conditions — is estimated to be $29,500.

This is the latest development in the work of the Athletic Fields Committee, which was created to help the town develop plans to address a field shortage in town. Current priorities include expanding the size of fields to accommodate regulation-size games, as well as improving conditions, such as poor drainage, which often closes the fields.

For now, the Athletic Fields Committee is concentrating on Field 2. Over the summer the committee decided to take the field at Redding Elementary School off the list for immediate improvements because it is compacted and would not be cost effective at this time.

Sand trenching half of Field 2 should be adequate, Mr. Takacs said, but if the process works well enough, the other half could be trenched as well for an additional $29,000. The field can be used the day after the procedure, which is a benefit, he said.

The cost to sand trench the field will be covered using some of the $400,000 Small Town Economics Assistance (STEAP) grant the town was awarded in April.

First Selectman Natalie Ketcham said using the STEAP money for the sand trenching would be a good way of seeing how well the process works.

The majority of the grant is intended to be used for major improvements, like the installation of artificial turf, but that part of the overall fields plan has been put on hold for now because of controversy surrounding the “infill” material. The material that is in some turf surfaces is considered by some groups to be a health hazard. Artificial turf, however, is expected to increase the use of any field exponentially.

The state legislature is undertaking a study of artificial turf. Mr. Takacs said the town would not consider artificial turf until the state releases its findings.

Barry Blades of Blades and Goven, the town’s consulting firm, is continuing to gather data from other town agencies with regard to their use of artificial turf. Additionally, he is investigating new artificial turf materials not containing “infill” that are now on the market. There is one new material on the market right now that few people are producing, but it is more expensive, Mr. Takacs said.

The estimated cost to surface one field with artificial turf, which includes the infill material, is $850,000.

Still under consideration is the extension of Field 2 into a competition-size field for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey by widening it and lengthening it. While the preference is to enlarge the field and install artificial turf, the Athletic Fields Committee wants to make immediate improvements, and the sand trenching is the best way to do it, Mr. Takacs said.

The overall fields plan includes expanding the existing field at John Read Middle School to a football field with artificial turf and lighting. This size field can also accommodate soccer, field hockey and lacrosse and would include a softball diamond.