Martin Stidham: Save park athletic fields

The City is establishing a toxic waste dump in Golden Gate Park that will obliterate seven acres of magnificent meadowland and be located right on top of a future source of our tap water.

Is this some diabolical plot to destroy the park and us along with it?

Toxic waste in the middle of a city and beside an ocean must be camouflaged, so a carpet of synthetic turf the size of five football fields will be laid. Everything under it will die. Above, only bacteria and soccer players will survive.

The plastic "grass" will be infilled with 46,000 tires (ground into rubber crumb), a waste rejected by many landfills due to the zinc, arsenic, lead and 60-some different chemicals it contains - endocrine disruptors, neurotoxicants, carcinogens.

Don't worry, the area will be fenced in - not to protect you, but to keep you out. For a fee, select groups will come in and gallop across it as fast and hard as they can so it will decompose faster and more waste can be deposited in four or five years. It will be dressed up with stadium lighting, stadium seating and concrete walks. Behold! The Beach Chalet soccer fields complex.

As it stands now, the site is ethereal and awe-inspiring. Surrounded by Monterey Cypress and flowering shrubs, the grassy meadow is one of the most open spaces in town, yet has a secluded, protected feel by night or by day. At either end the two windmills stand like wise guardians, and across the street is Ocean Beach.

Time stops in this haven, but outside it the clock is ticking.

Some fringe groups are outraged by the imminent destruction, pollution and commercialization of this end of the park, traditionally reserved for lakes, grassland, forest and wildlife. They have offered an alternative that would save the meadow: renovate the existing soccer fields with fresh new grass, and avert ground and light pollution.

What they don't realize is this: the "silent majority" (who know little or nothing about the project) has spoken - with some prompting from political and private interests. Everyone else is overruled, sorry.

You nature-lovers must accept that no longer do city people want to step into nature. They want to step out of city life into more city life, and they want it man-made, artificial and controlled. The planet is headed for annihilation anyway. What's the point of saving anything?

You worry-warts who fear that your tap water will be polluted: rest assured that adequate drainage and a patchwork liner (20 mil Hefty) will prevent that. I know you are thinking of the Gulf oil spill and Fukushima, but such incidents are isolated even in earthquake-prone San Francisco. Stock up on bottled water and stop worrying.

You moms, who obsess about toxic poisoning, allergic reactions, respiratory problems, on and on - come on! Everything is cancer-causing now. Just Google "Is synthetic turf safe?" or "Is synthetic turf toxic?" for the many unknowns about toxicity. If any problem develops in your child after playing here, you can blame it on something else. Cultivate a sense of humor. It's the best support in times of uncertainty.

You young soccer players: those of you who supported a moratorium on the use of fake turf are out of luck, but look at it this way: no longer will you have to worry about 70-some species of birds pooping on your heads or an earthworm jumping out and scaring you. And don't feel bad about pushing the rest of us out; it's not your fault.

You picnickers, strolling lovers, sunset-viewers, musicians, Frisbee-throwers, kite-flyers, bird-watchers, artists, meditators, day-dreamers, star-gazers, and all you who love frolicking in the meadow, breathing fresh sea air, gazing at clouds and stars - hold your nose but take heart. The plastic grass will look real, and the sky will remain (until sunset anyway). Star-gazers and bird-watchers should take up another hobby.

You bonfire-builders stumbling around on the beach in the dark: 60-foot-tall stadium lights will provide more than 150,000 watts of illumination, so you won't have to build a fire any more.

You walkers, joggers, mountain-bikers, hikers, dog chaperones and hobos: don't worry about getting lost on mysterious, winding sandy trails any more. Straight stretches of concrete will be brilliantly illuminated every night including holidays.

Wildlife (non-human): true, you are like Disney characters, trying your best to fit into modern life. But the time has come to move on. That includes endangered species like you, snowy plovers.

Scram! Vamoose!

Last but not least, you Richmond District residents and visitors from around the globe taking in the sweep of the Pacific Ocean from Pt. Lobos and the Cliff House, if you think 10 banks of stadium lighting next to the ocean will detract from your view of the sunset or spoil the night panorama, think how foggy it can get here. That should reduce the glare from this giant rectangle, which is as long as four Coit Towers laid end to end.

Martin Stidham is a Richmond District resident who "hikes through the park every day for exercise, peace of mind and inspiration" in his work as a writer and translator of Chinese fiction.