Heavy equipment makes way for a turf field and other improvements at Robron Park.

Controversial Robron Park turf field construction begins

Machines have torn up the grass on the upper field across from the lacrosse box

Construction is underway on an artificial turf field at Robron Park.

Machines have torn up the grass on the upper field across from the lacrosse box to make way for the all-weather, synthetic field.

Construction of the $2.27 million project began at the start of the month and is expected to last until early November.

The project includes not only the new turf, but also sports lighting and improvements to the pathway system around Robron Park.

City council approved spending $1.09 million to dig up the grassy field, another $475,000 for the artificial turf, and a further $140,170 for the new lighting.

Mayor Andy Adams, who has been an advocate of the Robron project for several years, said it’s a major investment in the community.

“Council sees this as another critically important investment in our youth, families, and recreation in our community,” he said last month when council gave the project the green light. “Currently many (soccer) games are cancelled due to unplayable weather and players and coaches are having to go elsewhere down-Island to participate in rep teams and larger tournaments.”

But at the same time, Adams acknowledged the turf field is a hot button topic.

“I want to point out, because there is controversy with this, the majority of council campaigned in the last election to move forward with this project,” Adams said. “This council is getting things done and moving ahead with a promise of what they would do.”

A parks survey done by the city last year revealed that upgrades to Robron Park were survey respondents’ number one priority, but others in the community argue that taxpayers have already said no to the project.

Adams pointed out, however, that a 2008 referendum in which voters rejected the Robron Park project, the upgrades were lumped in with a new downtown arena and would have required the city to borrow $20 million.

Adams said the turf field is a smaller scale project and won’t require the city to take on any debt.

He noted that council has set aside $750,000 in parks parcel taxes and the city will also be able to use federal Gas Tax funds to pay for the project.

Aside from the project costs and the referendum, another point of contention is the possible health effects associated with artificial turf fields.

Some in the community have voiced concerns about the impacts from the crumb rubber turf which is made from recycled tires.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of sports, recreation and culture, said in July that the city did extensive research before moving forward with the turf and reviewed more than 50 independent studies from across Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and all indicate that the new artificial turfs using crumb rubber have no known health or environmental risks.

The city, on its website, has posted links to seven different health studies along with some frequently asked questions surrounding the all-weather field project which can be found at: www.campbellriver.ca/city-services/capital-improvement-projects/current-projects/robron-park-all-weather-field and clicking on the Questions & Answers link.