BARNEGAT, NJ – Wet athletic fields represent a host of potential problems, both safety and otherwise.  In Barnegat, it appears that drainage issues are causing the deterioration of the main football field. Reportedly, excess water on the surface keeps the fields drenched for as long as three days after a rainstorm.

“It’s completely broken at this point and having an impact on the school,” shared Dr. Brian Latwis, District Superintendent.

Earlier this week, Latwis invited Barnegat parents to an information night regarding the High School Athletic Field. Approximately twenty people attended the session, which included a presentation from the engineering firm retained to do the study of the field conditions.

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William B. Edwards, P.E. of Edwards Engineering Group, outlined the problems with flooding at the high school field.  He pinpointed the primary drainage issues as developing in the northwest end of the field.  Edwards provided technical explanations concerning sloping, pipe sizes and perforations, as well as underdrains as contributing factors to the issues.

“The field saturation causes safety concerns,” said Edwards. “It’s never good for a foot to sink into the ground. And, that’s what’s happening.”

Drainage issues have also resulted in a negative impact on field availability. Athletic Director John Germano listed many of the times the flooded grounds have created a problem. Among them was an issue with the New Jersey High School Girls Lacrosse State Tournament.

“They couldn’t play on our field,” said Germano. “It was just too wet.”

As part of his presentation, Edwards presented some alternatives to rectify the issues, which will ultimately require a vote from Board of Education members.

Natural or Artificial Turf as Alternatives

The current field is made of natural grass and would need a great deal of work to bring it up to par. The estimated project costs of $854K include demolishing the existing drainage system and replacing it. Restoration of they irrigation system. as well as regrading elevation and installing sod str sll part of the work necessary to keep natural grass.

Superintendent Latwis considers the first alternative as a band-aid fix. It doesn’t address all of the issues with the high school’s use of athletic fields.

“This alternative corrects the existing problem,” said Edwards. “However, there’s also the cost of field maintenance. Additionally, this option will result in the loss of use of the field for a full season while the work is done.”

“We’ll still have to rest the fields after games,” said Germano. “We’ll continue to have issues with limited playability.”

Edwards presented the idea of replacing the natural grass with artificial turf. The cost of the project could be as high as $1.2M. However, operating costs would go down, and more teams would have access to the main field.

One of the advantages of artificial turf includes the ability to mark lines for all sports. This would prove advantageous to other high school teams within the district.

Additionally, an artificial turf field represents a more practical option for the marching band.

Payment for either variation of the project would come from a capital reserve fund. The decision to stay with natural grass would mean an upfront expenditure. Artificial turf could be financed with a lease to buy option.

Board of Education candidate George Fedorczyk was at the presentation and asked several questions, including those related to the cost of maintaining the grass field and expenses over time. At one point, Ferdorczyk asked Barnegat Football Coach Rob Davis for his preference concerning the two options.

“We had the best natural grass in the Shore Conference at one time,” said Davis. “Now, we strategically play games to avoid certain areas. I think artificial turf is the best way of correcting the situation.”

While the majority of attendees at the informational seminar appeared in favor of replacing the natural grass with artificial turf, some on social media expressed concerns. Research suggests there are some links between some types of artificial turf materials and health issues.

“I think that genuine concerns about the health of our children need to be addressed,” said Fedorczyk. “I will be reaching out to the Superintendent to ask those questions.”

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.