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Protest targets turf
February 29, 2008, 12:00 AM By Heather Murtagh

Heather Murtagh/Daily Journal Left to right, Estella Lippi, Nicole Belkin and Madeleine Korn hold signs and chant in favor of natural grass at Burton Park in San Carlos Thursday.

San Carlos parents and children favoring natural grass held a "friendly” protest yesterday requesting school leaders to reconsider the decision October to install artificial turf at Heather Elementary School and really research potential effects of such a field.

Health concerns and newly written legislation potentially barring the installation of artificial turf on public parks and schools were the concerns raised by parents at the San Carlos Elementary School District Board of Trustees meeting at Central Middle School yesterday. Ultimately the group wants the board to rescind a narrow approval it gave to the city in October to continue discussions of installing turf. Currently, the district and city are still working out the details of a proposed 30-year field-use agreement behind closed doors. Moving forward with the joint-use agreement will allow the city to study the environmental impacts and potential safety concerns of a synthetic field. The board was unable to respond to parents under the California open meeting law since the topic was not on the agenda.

"It’s safe to say we haven’t reached an agreement,” said Superintendent Steve Mitrovich.

Once an agreement is made, the city can begin an environmental study of the potential field. Many concerns raised by parents could be addressed at that point.

San Carlos Mayor Brad Lewis echoed Mitrovich saying the two groups are letting negotiations take a natural course.

Parents feel their concerns are not being considered and the decision for artificial turf was made too quickly.

"Really we need to do proper research before such a decision,” said parent Joy Papapietro. "If five years from now it’s installed after proper research occurs, then let this happen.”

At the same time, Papapietro along with other parents worry not enough research was done to ensure the health of children will be unaffected by the turf down the road.

Papapietro presented 37 complaints to the board at its last meeting against the trustees and Mitrovich for the way the decision was handled. The board met with lawyers during closed session last night to discuss how to respond, said Mitrovich.

The new legislation could be a challenge to the fake grass decision. On Feb. 19, state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, introduced Senate Bill 1277, which moves to prohibit the installation of synthetic turf onto a public or private school or park until the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has prepared an environmental study. The state of Department of Public Health would also be required to prepare a public health study on the use of crumb rubber within synthetic turf before June 30, 2009 under the bill.

Heather Murtagh can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.

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