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The little green shapes are a flock of Red Rumped parrots eating the grass seeds on the playing fields of Tempe Reserve. There were at least 80 birds eating here just yesterday, though they were impossible to photograph as a group. If this area is covered with synthetic turf these & other birds will lose this important food source.

Following on from Part 1 Marrickville Council has released its Recreation Needs Research Strategy for public comment.  Only 1.27% of the population participated in the community consultation opportunities. The results are now up on ‘Your Say Marrickville’ & the community is being asked to comment by 6th June 2012. 

Council also wants to do “synthetic conversions of sports field open space to increase usability,” & for Tempe Reserve, introduce synthetic surfaces on the vast area of playing fields.  I do not want synthetic surfaces used anywhere in the LGA, least of all in Tempe Reserve.

Playing fields are not just used by sporting people.  A range of birds such as Magpies, Red Rumped parrots, Magpie Larks, White-Faced Herons, Masked lapwings & Australian Ibis use the playing fields as a food source by either eating the grass-seed or by digging for worms & other small insects. To cover such a large expanse in plastic will not only kill off all living things, including microbes, but will also remove an important food source for a population of birds already stressed by lack of habitat.

If Marrickville Councillors approve the plans to convert 9-holes of the current 18-hole Marrickville Golf Course into playing fields they will also likely cover that area with synthetic turf further removing another major food source & habitat area for wildlife.  See –

Synthetic turf will create further problems when it rains allowing all the rubbish, including plastic bottles, to wash into the Cooks River.  I’ve stood in Tempe Reserve & watched litter wash over the grass & into the Cooks River. It will be much easier with synthetic turf.

Covering sporting fields with synthetic turf will allow Marrickville Council to get much more money from hiring out the fields because they can lease the fields year round, but it will be done at great cost to the environment & the rest of the community. It should not happen & I am appalled that it has even been suggested.

The following information comes from an excellent article on synthetic turf (1MB) from –

Briefly, the problems with synthetic turf are –

  • It is made from petroleum products ie. recycled car tyres & frequently contains heavy metals such as lead, aluminium, chromium, copper & sulphur.
  • Making the turf produces carbon, while ordinary grass removes carbon from the atmosphere.
  • It smells like old tyres.
  • It is laid on road base so gets very hot. On a hot day artificial turf can be up to 50% hotter then natural turf, so it contributes to the urban heat island effect.  Granulated rubber is brushed into the synthetic grass after it is laid.  Playing on this sort of heat can’t be good for players.
  • It causes turf-burn sports injury.
  • It needs to be washed with a cleaning liquid to maintain shine & to disinfect from substances such as blood, spit, urine, vomit, food, beverages & animal excreta weekly during use.  This water then goes into the surrounding environment.
  • It has a life span of 10-years & then goes to landfill.
  • Any air-born weeds that take hold need to be sprayed with weed killers & the chemical stays on the artificial turf.

I think these are more than enough reasons why installing synthetic turf is not a good idea.  There is plenty more studies to show that communities have stopped using the product because of the problems associated with it.

Council says Tempe Reserve has “poor drainage & dangerous surfaces by sports users & careful consideration needs to taken to ensure that this large area of multi use open space is maximised.”  The $300,000 Mackey Park upgrade used sand under the field as part of the drainage system.  More work on the fields was done on at least 2 occasions shortly after completion.  The grass species they used is fragile & deteriorates very quickly. The ground is uneven with holes in the sand making even a walker be aware of where they are stepping.

A soccer Dad & friend said that the field was too soft & more suitable to a professional pitch that endures less games, as opposed to a community park with more frequent games as the pitch can’t recover from frequent damage.

One thing that alarmed me about the upgrade of Mackey Park is when I noticed the lack of wildlife.  Prior to the upgrade this park had hundreds of birds on the fields mornings & afternoons when there were no games, including White-Faced Herons. Now it is almost devoid of wildlife as really, very little can live in dry sand.   I would not like this to happen for other sporting fields.

Marrickville Council’s Biodiversity Plan strives to increase habitat & biodiversity, yet their planned upgrades of huge areas by covering them with synthetic turf will remove even greater areas of food source for wildlife. This does not fit with Council’s aim to increase biodiversity.

More trees around the perimeter of the sporting fields of Tempe Reserve are needed. Trees will not impact on the ability to play sports, but will offer much needed shade for spectators & provide a buffer for the wind that often makes this park a miserable place to be.  Trees will also provide food & habitat for wildlife.

You can download the Recreation Needs Research Strategy & leave comments online here –

Council offers a summary of the Recreation Needs Research Strategy, but this doesn’t discuss the finer points.  I will write more about the other issues of interest in Part 3.

This is a Google map of Tempe Reserve. The park is surrounded on 3 sides by the Cooks River.      I’ve left the housing in to give an idea of how large this park is.   The pink space is the playing fields & where Marrickville Council are suggesting should be covered in synthetic turf. It is opaque so you can see the marks of the actual fields. The turquoise areas are all the hard surfaces – roads, concrete footpaths, bitumen roads & car parks & the buildings (Jets Sporting Club & the Robyn Webster Sports Centre, plus 2 toilet blocks).   Although the map is old, the trees are essentially the same.   The remaining spaces are lawn grass, except for landscaping (mainly long grasses with some small shrubs), the saltwater wetland & a large triangle of long grasses next to the wetland. If the sporting fields are covered with synthetic turf I believe that more than half the park will be hard surfaces.



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