Some Residents Concerned About Possible Carcinogens By John Burton The issue concerning the borough’s Piping Rock Memorial Park is “its playability,” said Mayor John Ekdahl. “We’re wearing out the grass fields,” the mayor said of the park and officials are looking at ways to improve it. The mayor and Borough Council are considering a proposal from the borough Parks and Recreation Director Sarah Orsay, and committee, for the park and its accompanying Martello Field on East River Road to install a synthetic turf surface on a portion of the site. According to Orsay, the synthetic turf would be used to convert the baseball field and a portion of the small lacrosse/youth football practice field into a regulation-size, all-weather, multisport field. The field, if the plan moves for ward, would be able to accommodate many sports activities, including soccer, lacrosse, flag football, tackle football practice, field hockey and the use of school teams, Orsay said.The plan under consideration, Orsay noted, would also retain the park’s tennis courts and the existing playground would be relocated to the eastern end of the current lacrosse field and the park continuing to be home to the 9/11 memorial.“I think what’s critical to the project is to maintain the neighborhood park-like feel,” she said.This park, given its extensive use for the various sports activities, as well as the other town parks with natural grass covering, takes a beating, Ekdahl said.As it currently stands, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School allows the borough rec program to conduct some activities on the high school’s artificial turf field. “Having said that,” meaning the high school’s help, Ekdahl continued, “we’re still running out of space.”“We actually have to take one field a year out of play to entirely habilitate it,” Ekdahl said.“Between the high school, elementary school, recreation (program) and travel sports,” Orsay said, “the fields are in constant use.”In the fall the borough parks get 3,500 participants using them each week, Orsay explained. She said, if a child has two practices and one game in a week, that constitutes three “participants.”“The demand for the regulation field is far exceeding our ability to supply, and certainly our ability to meet the demand, as well as maintain the integrity and beauty of our parks,” Orsay offered.“We are getting some pushback,” however, from some residents over what is being considered, Ekdahl acknowledged. The objections, in part, are coming from some who live in the vicinity of the park. Others, Ekdahl said, have raised issue with the use of synthetic turf and possible health considerations. A recent, controversial study charged that some material used in the turf installed on sports fields and in playgrounds – coming from such items as recycled rubber vehicle tires – could be cancer-causing. “As I told them” – meaning the residents – “we haven’t even gotten there yet,” as to what material or even if the council would move for ward with the plan, Ekdahl pointed out.The Monmouth County Open Space Grant program has awarded the borough $250,000 for the project; the borough is required to make a matching contribution; and officials are awaiting to hear on their second grant application, seeking an additional $135,000, which would also need the borough to match that amount. County officials should make that announcement in January 2016. Funding is contingent on the borough obtaining the necessary money for the project, Orsay said.Orsay said the entire project is estimated at $1.2 million.Should the borough win the second county grant, the council would likely move forward with having its engineer produce a feasibility study. Depending on what that study shows, officials would likely look at funding options, including private sources, to cover the borough’s costs, Ekdahl explained.Should the council move forward, “I think it’d be greatly enjoyed by the community,” Orsay maintained.