Green Acres $$$ Should Be Spent on Safe & Equitable Recreation, Not Artificial Turf Fields

For Immediate Release

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Green Acres $$$ Should Be Spent on Safe & Equitable Recreation, Not Artificial Turf Fields

Governor Murphy announced a proposed investment of nearly $100 million for projects to develop or update parks and preserve open space, including a new initiative to fund construction of inclusive playgrounds for differently abled children. According to the announcement, the funding will be through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Acres Program. The proposed investment includes $92.2 million in funding subject to approval by the Garden State Preservation Trust, and an additional $7.7 million for Urban Parks projects, bringing the total to $99.9 million. 

“It’s important that Governor Murphy is investing in our parks. For years, state and local parks, especially in urban areas, have been significantly underfunded. Unfortunately, only 7% of the funding will be going towards urban areas, this is not enough. Urban areas have a real shortage of open space and parks which can have a significant environmental, health, and economic impact in these communities. It’s critical that money is going towards areas that truly need it,” said Taylor McFarland, Conservation Program Manager, New Jersey Sierra Club. 

Funding for projects also includes spending money for synthetic turf fields in BurlingtonTownship,  Mount Holly Township, Nutley Township, Bloomfield Township, Nutley Township, Hudson County, Egg Harbor Township, Harrison, Mercer County Park, Paterson City, Branch Brook Park, Westside Park, and Trust for Public Land in Newark, NJ. Over $10,000,000 will be spent on either installing new or replacing old artificial turf. 

Synthetic turf fields have a large carbon footprint due to their fossil fuel ingredients, their emissions during plastic carpet manufacture and its methane greenhouse gas emissions as they break down while in place. Additionally, synthetic turf releases toxic ethylene emissions as it breaks down. 

“Green Acres money shouldn’t be spent on artificial turf fields. Synthetic turf is made of forever chemicals (PFAS) that build up in the environment and are very harmful to our health, especially to children. The “heat island” effect on turf fields is especially dangerous on clear warm days where temperatures on these synthetic fields surpass 120 degrees fahrenheit. New Jersey needs to invest in natural play surfaces on sports fields and playgrounds instead. Natural turf fields help reduce stormwater runoff, are cooler, safer, and overall more sustainable than synthetic turf,” said McFarland. 

After approval by the Garden State Preservation Trust, the Legislature must formally appropriate the Green Acres funds for these projects that will establish, expand, or revitalize new and existing parks; acquire land; improve waterfront access; develop athletic fields and playgrounds; improve parking lots; create open space; and enhance land stewardship.

“Providing access to the outdoors for everyone is a vital component of the work of the Sierra Club. State and local parks are a critical part to the health of the public and our environment. It’s important that NJDEP and the NJ Legislature find a more equitable way to fund our parks and open spaces. More importantly, money should be spent on recreation that is safe for our children and our environment” said Taylor McFarland, Conservation Program Manager, Sierra Club, New Jersey Chapter.