"Is it still ‘open space’ if the grass on the ground is plastic?" asks a Washington Post writer. Good question, because the State of Maryland is about to award at least $7 million in money for open spaces – intended to preserve and develop parkland – to cover 14 playing fields in fake turf.
Later on in the Post article, the state’s decision starts to not look as bad as the headline, though, because we learn that the funds are typically divided between preservation of natural places and upgrading other types of parklands, like recreational areas. And on playing fields, the fake stuff is far less resource-intensive to maintain, though the article left out any mention of its environmental advantages, or the fact that much of it is made from recycled rubber, not plastic.
But here’s what the article does tell us: that the fake stuff doesn’t do what real turfgrass does – produce oxygen, filter rainwater or cool the air. So we learn, despite all the turfgrass-bashing we’re reading these days, that real grass doesn’t look all that bad compared to "plastic." And remember that on playing fields – and that’s what we’re talking about here – we have to have it, real or fake, and the drain on our dwindling water supply from keeping the real stuff alive is HUGE.
Now on a super-local note, in nearby Silver Spring there’s a big plot of artificial turf in a busy pedestrian area, a temporary solution awaiting more development, and it’s WILDLY popular with the public. It’s taken on a life of its own, with fans and defenders and lots of press coverage. (That link includes a photo of the rather post-Apocalyptic landscape, which you can click to enlarge for the full effect.) And sure, I like seeing people lying out in the sunshine, playing, and just hanging out in what looks almost like nature but really isn’t, at least the plant part. But that’s a big deal to people like us. So in the end it’s just SAD that people love this safe, sterile product and are turned off by real dirt and real plants.
But getting back to Maryland’s decision about funding open spaces, it’s seems so complicated, but maybe it isn’t. A sensible-sounding spokesperson for an enviro group suggests to the Post writer that there’s plenty of really important natural land "at risk" that could better use the money. That sounds about right to me.
Photo credit: Go Mustang Sports.