With the use of crumb rubber \u2014 or recycled tire crumbs \u2014 as infill material for artificial athletic fields banned by the city of Hartford and being re-evaluated at the federal level, an organic alternative has been proposed for Fujitani Field, due for replacement this calendar year. At the Feb. 16 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, Wilton\u2019s Parks and Recreation Department requested $650,000 for fiscal year 2017 to replace Fujitani Field, the crumb rubber football field at Wilton High School, with organic turf. Fujitani, according to Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Mark Ketley, has reached the end of its useful life. \u201cAs you know, the Fujitani football field has been on the capital plan for years, and this is the year that it\u2019s due,\u201d he said at the Feb. 16 meeting. \u201cThe current field is 12 years old. It\u2019s reached the end of its life.\u201d On Jan. 19, the city of Hartford prohibited the installation of artificial turf containing synthetic infill materials. On Feb. 12, the United States government launched a multi-agency action plan to study environmental human health questions pertaining to synthetic turf. This follows a contentious, multi-month public hearing process in Wilton for a local land-use application by Wilton Youth Football that sought to install a crumb rubber field at Middlebrook School, approved in October 2015 by Wilton\u2019s Planning and Zoning Commission. \u201cAll the concern about crumb rubber we took to heart, and we discounted crumb rubber as an [option] for this field,\u201d said Ketley. Accordingly, Ketley said, \u201cmonths and months ago,\u201d a Parks and Recreation subcommittee started researching crumb rubber alternatives, \u201cto look into what we\u2019re going to do at that field.\u201d He said the subcommittee heard presentations from \u201cthree of the top [artificial turf] companies in the country\u201d and considered \u201csafety for the student and adult athletes, playability for the three sports that are going to use the football stadium, and environmental effects.\u201d Basing their judgment on those three criteria, the subcommittee selected Shaw Sports Turf as a vendor. Shaw Sports Turf is a North American synthetic turf company that offers an \u201cenvironmentally friendly\u201d infill product called GeoFill. \u201cIt is a little bit more expensive than a crumb rubber field, but the plus side far outweighs everything else,\u201d Ketley said. \u201cTheir [infill] is 100% organic. [It] is 96% coconut husk, and the remaining 4% is a combination of a very small amount of cork and corn husk.\u201d In addition to environmental concerns, some have argued that crumb rubber gets too hot too fast. It is argued that athletes have burned their flesh by coming into contact with the synthetic material on hot days. \u201cThis field, because of its organic nature \u2026 actually creates a cooling effect,\u201d Ketley added. \u201cIt can be 40 degrees cooler than a normal [crumb rubber] field.\u201d The $650,000 requested, according to Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce, \u201cincludes the removal of the current synthetic turf field, taking it out of here and disposing of it \u2026 grading the underneath surface \u2026 two perc tests \u2014 one before the grading is done, one after the grading is done \u2026 the laying down of the new field, and the infill.\u201d Shaw Sports Turf requires that a shock pad go underneath any GeoFill system. Pierce said this represents $100,000 of the $650,000 requested overall. Ketley said the pad is \u201cspecifically designed to reduce effects of concussion\u201d and is said to cut the risk of concussion \u201cto way below accepted standards.\u201d Also reflected in the $650,000 request is netting to replace fencing stanchions currently relied on to keep balls in play at Fujitani Field. \u201cAll those stanchions need to be replaced,\u201d Pierce said, adding that the proposed netting \u201cwill go further up the sideline\u201d and thereby return a greater number of errant shots and passes. Selectman Michael Kaelin thought Shaw Sports Turf\u2019s GeoFill product seemed like a good organic alternative to crumb rubber infill, but that made him worry, because crumb rubber is still planned for the renovation of Middlebrook Field. \u201cYou\u2019ve done such a good job of convincing us that this is the right way to go that I\u2019m extremely concerned about installing something else on the Middlebrook Field,\u201d Kaelin said. \u201cWhile somebody else is paying for that, it is our property, and we\u2019re responsible for maintaining it, and I don\u2019t think the public is going to understand why we\u2019re using one substance on one field and another substance on another field, especially with the questions that have been raised about crumb rubber.\u201d \u201cWe should adopt a standard,\u201d argued First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice. She said she\u2019s made Wilton Youth Football aware this might happen. \u201cIf that happens,\u201d Vanderslice continued, \u201cthey know that they\u2019re going to be putting in the same thing as every other stadium.\u201d Though Wilton Youth Football already has land-use approval for the project, the private organization still has to offer the renovation to the Board of Selectmen as a gift, as Middlebrook Field is town-owned. Construction can\u2019t begin at Middlebrook until the gift is accepted. \u201c[Wilton Youth Football] have Planning and Zoning approval, but \u2026 they [still] have to gift [the field] to us. We\u2019re only going to accept a gift that meets our town standard, and if we establish that as coconut [husk], then that\u2019s it,\u201d Vanderslice said. Selectman Dick Dubow was displeased that the Parks and Recreation Department did not propose at the Feb. 16 meeting a sinking fund for future replacement of Fujitani Field. \u201cI don\u2019t believe Parks & Rec was in discussions about that,\u201d Ketley said. \u201cThat was brought up almost repeatedly over several years,\u201d Dubow countered, \u201cthat when the field was replaced, we wanted to see a plan for a sinking fund, so that at the end of the useful life of the field, that at least some of those funds would be available for [its] replacement.\u201d \u201cWe could certainly put something together,\u201d Pierce said. \u201cWe have not spoken to any of the youth organizations that use the field about that,\u201d said Ketley. \u201cThat was the expectation a year ago,\u201d Dubow said. Apparently, Vanderslice had been under a similar impression. \u201cAs a board of finance member, I had that same expectation,\u201d she said. According to Ketley, if approved in May, the project will commence once Independence Day has passed, because the annual Fourth of July fireworks fly from Fujitani Field. \u201cAs soon as we have a town vote approving it, [Shaw Sports Turf] will start getting ready. Our anticipation is, right after July 4 they will come in and start putting the field in, and it\u2019ll take a couple of weeks [to install].\u201d \u201cMinimally, it\u2019ll be ready for the start of the football season,\u201d he continued. \u201cWe\u2019re pretty confident it\u2019ll be ready for the start of their practice sessions. If it gets pushed back, we have that little bit of buffer, but they\u2019ve given us those guarantees.\u201d \u201cIt\u2019s an eight-year warranty. We hope to get 10 to 12 out of it,\u201d Ketley said.