Our end-of-the-year compilation of questions and answers is always a big hit,
particularly since so many of the Q&As have universal application.
Furthermore, the following Q&As represent a year’s worth of troubleshooting
and lessons learned, often the hard way, hands-on, with the hope
that each contributor’s experience will make the way smoother for you.
If you get a chance, and you’ve been helped by any of this year’s contributors
to the annual Q&A feature, please drop them a line and let them know.
And, let us know if you have any questions you’d like to have answered and
we’ll do our best to find one for you, and publish it for others who might have
the same question.
We’ve divided this year’s Q&As into our four general editorial categories—
parks + playgrounds, grounds + sports turf, everything H2O and sports + fitness
+ recreation—plus a special category devoted to management + mission.
If you have any questions or comments along the way, or would like to contribute
your own experiences, please send us an e-mail at editor@northstarpubs.
com or go
to www.parksandrecbusiness.com. Thanks again…
Q: Is there a difference in cost of a synthetic
turf installation vs. an irrigated
blue grass turf installation?
A: Yes. In the Denver area synthetic turf
costs approximately three times more to
install than irrigated blue grass turf.
we feel that we will be able to amortize
the additional costs in six to eight years
through the following factors:
synthetic turf there is a significant reduction
in the amount of maintenance hours
per field, materials needed (paint) to line
fields, no fertilizer, no irrigation supplies,
no weed control, no aeration, no water
costs and no mowing.
In doing the calculations
on amortization we used present
water rates and present usage rates, but
we expect water rates to rise significantly
in the next ten years and we presently
use our irrigated turf fields about seven
months per year and are using our synthetic
turf 12 months per year, which will
account for an additional five months
We also charge a 25 percent
higher use fee for the synthetic turf fields.
We feel that all of these factors combined
will actually help to amortize the additional
synthetic turf costs at a much higher
rate than projected.
—Randy Burkhardt is a landscape
architect employed by Douglas County as
the parks and trails planner. Randy is scheduled
to give related presentations at Parks &
Rec Business LIVE! at Deer Creek State
Park, near Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 19-20.
Q: Has the irrigated blue grass turf in
your park system benefited from the use
of synthetic turf?
A: Yes. We expected the irrigated turf to
begin to recover when we removed the
majority of the soccer and football use,
but were pleasantly surprised by how fast
the turf recovered and how we are now
able to keep our irrigated turf fields in
good condition with much less maintenance
time than in the past.
Q: Is synthetic turf right for all park
applications where irrigated turf has
been used in the past?
A: No. I feel that synthetic turf used on
highly programmed sports fields is
exceptional, but we still use irrigated blue
grass turf in non-programmed areas, seating
areas adjacent to the synthetic fields,
and around picnic shelters and buildings.
Q: Have you seen a revenue increase
because of the synthetic turf fields?
A: Yes. This can be attributed to two factors…
First, as mentioned earlier, we
charge 25 percent higher rental fees on
our synthetic turf fields. We feel that they
are premium fields and the rental fee
There have been no issues
with the teams regarding these higher
fees, and we now have a waiting list of
teams wanting to rent our synthetic turf
Secondly, we have increased the
time that we are able to play on our fields
from seven months per year to yearround.
The only time that our synthetic
turf fields are down is when there is snow
covering the field.
These two factors have
led to an almost 100 percent increase in
our projected revenue for our synthetic
turf fields in 2005.
Q: What are some of the best tips you’ve
learned over the years for maintaining
A: 1. On fields (like football/soccer)
where you have enough space, try to
move the field over or turn it 180 degrees
to try to spread out the high-wear areas.
If it’s a combination game and practice
field ask the teams to move the practices
around as much as possible to spread the
Most teams have a habit of
practicing in the same spot all day. Do it
as much as time and budgets allow.
recent study I read has begun to prove
what I have seen before. If you know an
area is going to get high use or wear, seed
into it before the event happens. If you
continue to seed it on a 7-10 day basis
you have a good chance to keep the area
green, assuming the weather cooperates.
3. We have cool season grass here in
Chicago, and the sod is mostly bluegrass.
A lot of people insist on reseeding with
bluegrass seed and that is a good thing,
but when the usage is high, seeding withperennial ryegrass will help heal the areas
quicker simply because it germinates and
You can get ryegrass seed to
germinate as fast as 2-5 days in good conditions
as opposed to bluegrass germinating
in 7-21 days.
Use both if you can.
They sell bluegrass-ryegrass blends, and
the rye will help protect the younger
bluegrass plants until they have a chance
to get going.
I have also found that you
should talk to your seed supplier and ask
about the germination characteristics of
the different varieties. Some grasses grow
differently in the spring as opposed to the
summer and fall.
We use straight ryegrass
over bluegrass sod and seed with bluegrass
as much as possible.
4. When you
have spots that are low or compacted and
won’t drain, and you can’t spend a lot of
time and money to fix, try what I have
heard called a French Drain.
It is basically
a hole dug in the center of the low spot
and filled with sand or a calcinated clay
type of product. Sometimes a piece of
plastic drain pipe is used vertically in the
center of the hole.
You can do this on
grass areas and skinned infield areas also.
Leave it an inch or so below the turf or
infield mix. If it is compacted try to aerate
it as much as possible.
5. The more
often you mow the thicker it will grow,
regardless of how high you are mowing.
We mow from one inch to 1 3/4 inches.
The Chicago Park District mows from 2
1/2 in to 4 inches.
6. As a friend of mine
and fellow groundskeeper likes to say,
“Grass grows by inches and is killed by
—John Nolan is the head groundskeeper
for Soldier Field in Chicago.
Q: From whom do you garner resident
support for an invader species removal
program for forestry management?
A: The key to any forestry program is
education of park users and the community
before removal practices occur. An
invader species and removal program
allows for proper management of open
spaces and park lands in a community.
The only way a program of this type can
work is if residents support and assist
you. Articles in local newspapers, magazines,
and other localized publications
need to be the first step in getting the
information out to the public.
It is important
to outline the entire project, the reasoning
behind the project, and how it can
affect parks and open spaces.
The key is
to be straightforward with residents from
the beginning and share pros and possible
cons to the program. It is imperative
that solutions are given ahead of time so
that residents know what to expect.
Another tool in garnering support is visiting
service groups, clubs, and resident
groups to present project information on
a more personalized basis and to answer
specific concerns and questions directly
to those groups.
The third, and most
important step, is to inventory removal
areas and prioritize which areas are the
According to this inventory,
neighborhoods that border or surround
the priority areas will need to be
informed about the program, where it
will occur, and what to expect upon completion.
Direct mailing of program information
is great for these localized areas.
The invader species removal program
should first start as a pilot program to
ensure that all the parameters are applicable
for the community and neighborhoods.
Once work begins on these priority
areas, be visible at the job site and
ensure that problems or perceived problems
are resolved in a short time frame.
Upon completion, get feedback from residents
by surveys, phone calls or direct
mailing. Be open to change and if a group
of residents has issues with a portion of
the program be willing to adjust.
the program is accepted and the pilot
program is adopted, keep communication
lines open and do not lose touch
with the people that are directly affected.
Attend local events (such as Earth Day,
Arbor Day, and so forth) and continue
the spread of accurate information.
—Matt Taylor, Parks Superintendent,
Community Associations of The Woodlands
(Texas), Parks and Recreation.
Q: What is all this talk about Green
A: Created by the United States Green
Building Council, Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design (LEED), a
Green Building is an integrated, lifecycle
approach, taking into consideration
design, construction, operations, maintenance
of the building and landscaping as
they relate to energy, the economy, and
environmental impacts and performance.
There are various levels of LEED certification:
Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Certified,
depending on the number of points
acquired in various categories.
include Innovation and Design Process,
Indoor Environmental Quality, Materials
and Resources, Energy and the Atmosphere,
Water Efficiency and Sustainable
Green buildings demonstrate responsibility
and a commitment to our future.
They incorporate the principals of reducing
exposure of construction workers and
occupants, historic preservation, flexible
interiors, air quality, use of natural
resources, water efficiency, access to public
transportation, non-toxic and recycled
building materials, and preserve natural
—Michele R. McGleish, Director,
Department of Parks, Recreation and
Culture, Gaithersburg, Md.
Q: Have you or will you consider designing/
building such a facility?
A: “The City of Gaithersburg encourages
green building principals in both public
and private development in order to support
environmentally sensitive design,
construction, operation and maintenance
of buildings and landscapes”, is a statement
within the Gaithersburg Green
Building Guide for Developers, which
incentives builders and developers
through a building permit fee reduction.
And, yes, we want to be a role model
within the city and community at large.
Construction commenced and is in the
midst of the completion stages of a 7,000
square foot youth center.
This facility will
have a 25-foot rock climbing wall, computer
laboratory, homework area, arts
and crafts room, multipurpose spaces,
lounge area with television, pool tables
and games, concession stand with nutritious
offerings, and an educational program
throughout the building, demonstrating
that blue jeans were used as insulation,
recycled soda bottles were used for
carpeting, flushless urinals, the geothermal
heating and cooling unit that recycles
water using the Earth’s mass, natural
lighting through sky lights and windows,
and the like.
Three recreational fields and
a basketball hoop are located outside the
doors of the facility.
—Michele R. McGleish
Q: What is the projected cost-benefit
analysis your department has run in
anticipation of this facility?
A: A 30 percent reduction in water use
over a typical building and a 20 percent
reduction in energy costs for its efficiency
in the geothermal system over a typical
—Michele R. McGleish
Q: Was there anything you noticed in the
design and construction phases that
were different that other agencies
should be on the lookout for?
A: At the onset, ensure that the entire
project team is on board and aware of the
schedule of values (materials/costs).
During the design phase, make certain
that the setting of goals for credits is
understood and will be met, and that the
building must be well integrated in site
selection/the orientation of the building.
Local manufacturers must be used for all
building materials. And, make certain
that a contractor has LEED certified experience
in their portfolio of projects.
—Michele R. McGleish