A judge's strong ruling in favor of the environmental soundness of Berkshire Community College's artificial turf athletic field will ideally get an important project moving again after being needlessly stalled.
Timothy Jones of the Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Appeals and Dispute Resolution rejected an appeal of the project, which now sends it to DEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg (Eagle, July 21). Mr. Jones' decision was emphatic, declaring that a "preponderance of evidence" demonstrated that the project, which was carefully planned and vetted, meets all of the required environmental regulations.
The administrative law judge found to be true what has long been apparent. The turf field project complies with Riverfront Area performance standards and for work in buffer zones and there will be no stormwater discharges. The site near BCC's Paterson Field House where natural turf fields currently exist is in a delicate area, which planners from BCC, DEP and other groups were careful to take into consideration.
The citizen's group that has hamstrung the $2.1 million project also objects to the use of "crumb rubber" filler in construction of the field. One-size-fits-all studies on artificial turf and generic, alarmist national news reports should not block a specific project that beyond its cautious planning now includes add-ons to address concerns of opponents. Artificial turf fields are hardly unique and have been laid down successfully elsewhere in the state in recent years, including at Williams College, which isn't going to trifle with the health of its student-athletes or the environment.
The turf field, should it finally be constructed pending possible appeals, will have benefits extending far beyond BCC. A wide variety of youth teams will play on the field, allowing Western Massachusetts high school tournaments in sports like soccer and lacrosse to be played in the Berkshires. Berkshire County teams are now required to travel elsewhere for major postseason competitions.
Berkshire County must do more for its youth, enabling them to avoid troublesome distractions and encouraging them to establish deep roots here. Providing young people with an all-weather athletic field would help do both. Overblown fears and NIMBYism have delayed this goal long enough and should not be allowed to stop it entirely.