I would like to add my voice against the lobbying efforts of two local soccer clubs to replace grass playing fields with artificial turf, adding lights and expanding Lindberg Park.

First, before my husband and I are characterized as curmudgeonly spoilsports opposed to youth sports, I’ll add a caveat that we both enjoy watching our two granddaughters play soccer at Lindberg in the spring and fall, and during the summer we walk or bike over to the park to watch boy’s baseball.

I read with interest Dan Jordan’s viewpoint in last week’s Wednesday Journal [Why soccer fields are important at Lindberg, Viewpoints Oct. 13].

I totally agree with his conclusion that organized youth sports “promote a lifetime interest in fitness, team work, commitment, responsibility, sportsmanship, competitiveness, social skills and self-confidence.” But don’t the current programs played on grass and without lights promote the same benefits? How will replacing grass with synthetic turf and installing lights enhance or improve a child’s experience playing organized youth sports?

On the other hand, many neighbors living in blocks surrounding the park might not agree with the “benefits” of lights and artificial turf as defined by supporters who are enthusiastic about the prospect of a hugely expanded schedule.

One speaker at the first meeting envisioned continual games from morning to night and on both Saturday and Sunday. This increased schedule would result in a corresponding increase in the amount of car and bus traffic and congestion on surrounding blocks.

Another “benefit” is that kids would be able to play in a driving rain; no slipping and sliding on muddy fields when players can instead be covered with pellets from recycled car tires that are used as infill material and sustain abrasions and burns that are the result of friction between their skin and the synthetic turf.

The argument that Lindberg Park should have synthetic turf because Freedom Park in Berwyn has synthetic turf is deeply flawed. Just because “everyone else” is doing it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do. When my kids complained that “everyone else was doing” something they weren’t allowed to do, it didn’t mean I was wrong in not permitting them to do it.

In these tough economic times, we’re all trying to live within our budget. And the park district’s budget for this project is $450,000. Installing synthetic turf and lights would use most, if not that entire amount, leaving other needed improvements undone.

The proposal to add synthetic turf and lights would effectively transform Lindberg Park into the Toyota Park of the western suburbs. It’s a plan that is ill-advised and should not be allowed to go forward.

Jean Guarino is an Oak Park naturalist and local historian.

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