The softball field at Mill Valley Hawke Park on Thursday, December 2, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
The grass football field at Mill Valley Bay Park on Thursday, December 2, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
On Thursday, December 2, 2021, the football field at Mill Valley Hawke Park will be closed. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
The baseball field at Mill Valley Park and Recreation Center in Mill Valley on Thursday, December 2, 2021. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
On Thursday, December 2, 2021, a football goal is located on a closed field in Mill Valley Bay Park. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)
Due to the drought, Mill Valley officials are considering installing turf on some of the city’s seven stadiums.
The Parks and Recreation Committee discussed the turf installation on Wednesday and instructed staff to study its feasibility in Bayfront Field, Bell-Ropers Field, Alto Field, Hauke North Field and Hauke South Field. These venues are used for sports such as baseball, football, lacrosse and rugby.
"This report is just the beginning of the hope that the discussion. The conclusion is quite open," said Anthony Boyd, director of operations.
The city estimates that it uses 10 million gallons of water each year to maintain seven oil fields: Friends Field, Bayfront Field, Bell-Ropers Field, Hauke North Field, Hauke South Field, Alto Field, and Boyle Field at Mill Valley Middle School. Irrigation is the city's largest use of drinking water.
These fields total 497,000 square feet of irrigated land. Irrigation comes from the Marin Municipal Water District and reclaimed water.
The artificial turf project aims to limit the city's water consumption and water bills in the next few years when the drought is expected to continue. The committee stated that the lawn is open year-round, so it can raise funds for the city when the grass is usually closed in winter and spring.
Most of the meeting was devoted to weighing the pros and cons of each field. Various factors are considered obstacles in each field, including the source of irrigation, renovations in the last year, the size of the field, licensing agencies such as the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, property ownership, and cultural relics on site.
Boyd admits that no single field offers easy conversion opportunities.
"It raises the question of what we are trying to achieve with artificial turf," Boyd said.
The city stated that to consider the use of artificial turf, the field must be large enough to accommodate a full-size football field, which is 75,000 square feet. During the discussion, the committee merged Hauke North Field and Hauke South Field as well as Bayfront Field and Bell Ropers Field to overcome the size requirement.
For example, Hauke North uses recycled water and needs to modify the Mill Valley Bayfront master plan, which prohibits exercise on Sundays. The oil field also has a cultural relic site and a part owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which is under the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.
Bayfront and Bell-Ropers Field have also been recently refurbished and the Bayfront master plan needs to be reopened. Alto Field is located on the campus of Edna Maguire Elementary School, and there is a cultural cemetery in the area.
Boyd said he didn't know exactly where the graveyard on the grass and the culturally significant sites were.
Art and Entertainment Director Sean McGrew said: "Frankly, they were not identified because they were afraid of tomb robbery."
Boyd said that if the turf is installed, the staff must be "careful" so as not to disturb the cultural relics. He said he thinks they are below the "first few inches" that the staff will handle.
"Any work in these areas must be managed very carefully," Boyd said of the cultural graveyard.
Lucina Vidauri, the founder of Coast Miwok of the non-profit advocacy organization Southern Marin Project, said she is not familiar with any cemetery in Alto Field. She said there are dozens of them in the county, and some of them are not well-documented.
She said that if areas with known sites are excavated, these areas can be identified with some kind of plaque or historical markers.
"They already know it, so it's done," she said. "At this point, you really don't want to dig it, but to respect and recognize it. You have to protect history."
These suggestions are preliminary. The overall goal of reducing irrigation water means that the costs and benefits of other options can be compared, including underground irrigation or wells.
"I think we should include all of these," Boyd said.
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