Bowen Island – Of Astro Turf and Politics…driving it all home
Some of Bowen Island’s municipal councillors are a tad too close to the road’s shoulder and about to slip. It’s all about an astroturf practise field that was bullied through without proper procedure, ignoring the public, and accepting only an erroneous math calculation from a study.
Lucky we have people like David Chamberlain on fair Bowen isle. His commentary and letter below (which he has submitted to Bowen’s newspaper, The Undercurrent without success of publication) tells almost all:
(From the Bowen Island Phorum) I’m posting this here, as I haven’t had much luck getting my letters printed in the Undercurrent the last few times. It could be editorial policy, or it could just be me!
Democracy and Science
It’s amazing what a few words, thrown about carelessly, will convey. Or not, if you know what’s really going on.
Matthew Redekopp, in his letter to the Undercurrent, says that in the case of the Artificial Turf (AT) field, “democracy decided”. Oh, really? When you look at the facts, any similarities of the Artificial Turf field process to democracy are purely coincidental.
According to both Bob Turner and Peter Frinton, when questioned about how this debacle all started, Council was approached by an advocacy group a while ago, and informed about the availability of a grant from the West Vancouver School Board that could be used in the construction of an AT field (it’s not clear if the money could have been used for other purposes). The Bowen Island Football Club (BIFC) played a key role in this advocacy group.
Council thought that this might be a good idea, particularly as an adjunct to the upcoming Community Centre, and assigned Christine Walker as the Municipality representative to investigate. Now, according to Turner and Frinton, due process would have involved looking at various alternatives, weighing them carefully and then taking input from the public (a pretty common sense approach in a democracy, and one that is usually followed). This was not done; the primarily role of the Municipality representative appears to have been to convince Council (and the public) that the Artificial Turf field was the ONLY option. Perhaps this was because, on June 27, 2008, Christine Walker signed her name to a letter appearing in the Undercurrent from the Board of the BIFC and strongly supporting the AT field. The consultant that was hired to assist her played (and, as far as I know, still plays) a prominant role in the BIFC, coaching. So it’s no wonder that the process was unduly biased [please note that I do not blame any of the non-Council indivduals mentioned - Council should have known better than to rely on a then BIFC board member for an unbiased viewpoint, or perhaps it suited some member's objectives].
Despite all of this, and strong public opposition (once the public found out what was happening – it was almost snuck through with a minimum of hoopola), 4 of 7 Council members (Doug Hooper, David Wrinch, Cro Lucas and Alison Morse) voted in favour of proceeding with the AT field this past January, but with substantive conditions attached. There was a cap of $500,000 placed on the project. A Plan B (alternative strategy) was to be devised by Municipality staff. Trees were not to be cut, if at all possible. And others. Not one condition was met. However, the ground is now being dug up for the field, and the trees have alrady been cut. The lowest bid came in at $532,000 or so, even with many of the original field features dropped (one can only presume so the bid could get close to the cap) – Council reallocated another $7,000 and money dropped from the sky in the form of a mysterious gift of $25,000. Another $20,000 was requested for more consulting, and granted. No Plan B was delivered. And still the project moved on, even with growing signs that this was not favoured by the majority of Bowen Island (few people I talked to even knew about it, thought it had been killed, and couldn’t believe that it was still moving forward with so many other things that Council has identified as priorities).
All in all, I wouldn’t call this democracy.
But when Matthew attempts to be a mathematician and scientist, talking about the ‘greenness’ of the AT field, all I can say is, don’t quit your day job. It is a valiant attempt at bafflegab, however.
The central premise behind ANY attempt at saying that a plastic field can be greener than a natural one is reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with a reduction in automobile travel. There was a great of analysis of the Queen of Capilano’s emissions in the letter, but regardless of how many cars get on the ferry, it will still run. There will be no savings of greenhouse gas emissions there, period. There might be an argument that fewer cars MAY travel to the mainland as a result of the AT field (thus reducing THEIR emissions to and from the ferry), but since many people combine trips, that is far from proven. And they won’t go downtown to play soccer. Science is very inconvenient for the Matthew’s of the world, as it requires first, a hypothesis, and then second, proof that this hypothesis is valid. So until someone can prove that car trips will be reduced, it’s all guesswork. I could just as easily say that car trips will increase, particularly on Bowen, as people may not make as much of an effort to carpool to the new AT field, and they will still travel to the mainland for their errands (yes, going downtown).
Maintenance of natural vs AT fields was also brought up. Yes, natural fields do have to be maintained with equipment that generate greenhouse gases. But so do AT fields. In fact, AT fields have to be kept clean of organic matter (something you don’t have to worry about with natural fields), and it is still unclear how that will be accomplished here (short of hiring a gatekeeper). Plus, everyone is calling this AT field all-weather, when it is anything but. You can’t play soccer on an AT field in snow and ice. West Vancouver, which David Wrinch talked about to me (“West Vancouver doesn’t have that problem”), can’t be compared to Bowen Island – last winter, they had a few days of snow, while ours was still here for several months. The City of Coquitlam (which has weather more comparable to us) has had to develop a snow removal policy for their artificial turf field, but when I asked about whether anyone investigated that particular aspect, all I got was blank looks. Snow removal requires equipment that generates greenhouse gases. And there is no method at present to melt ice on an AT field (directly from the City of Coquitlam).
In short, there really is no scientific evidence at all that our AT field will be any greener than a natural turf one (and lots that it isn’t). So we’re stuck with a piece of plastic that we have to get rid of in 8 to 12 years, trees that were cut down (and were not replaced), lights that simply have to be put up, according to several members of Council (generating light pollution) so that the field can be played on in the winter (assuming, of course, that the snow and ice can be removed) – and this will cost more money, taking us well over the so-called upper limit of expenditure – and possibly even more car trips (my hypothesis – until I’m proven wrong, just as valid as any other).
Finally, to add insult to injury (and to further make a mockery of the democratic process), a fee will not only be charged to use the AT field, but, as I understand it, the natural field adjacent to it as well.
I don’t know what the colour of anger is, but colour me that!
a great letter, driving it all home!
there’s other things too….one involves the study on artificial turf as commissioned by Upper Canada College, which David Hocking presented. it is a fairly extensive study and according to Mr. Hocking, he did the mathematics contained within the study to show that artificial turf would release less greenhouse gas effects. HOWEVER the study offset those emissions by recommending trees be planted to such up carbon emmissions which a grass field and trees would do. the field in question was to plant 1,861 trees!!!! this also took into account that the soil dug up would be used elsewhere. this was not taken into consideration by Hocking’s figures or Council’s decision. yet another budget cost that wasn’t factored in.
fake grass needs the cleansing due to bacteria outbreaks. it also has to be watered in hot weather as the temperature of artificial turf in hot weather can soar to 30 degrees higher then grass….yet another unforseen maintenance cost not budgeted for.
let’s not forget the online petition by artificial turf advocates that Council accepted. It contains many anonymous names and people from out of country.
AND the contractor doing the job is having to subcontract….what are those costs? it is my understanding the sub-contracts were not built into the quote. let’s hope i’m wrong.
the acrylic wool was pulled over the eyes of many.
Entry filed under: Political Humour. Tags: bowen island, Politics, astro turf, synthetic grass, david chamberlain, mayor, council, bowen island football club, david hocking, christine walker, alison more, david wrinch, cro lucas, doug hooper, bob turner, peter frinton, green house gas, matthew redekopp, soccer, parks and recreatiion, west vancouver, community school.