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artificial turf field
Plastic replaced the grass at the Beach Chalet soccer fields Photo: Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center

Phil Ginsburg: Stop poisoning our world

Stop installing artificial turf and cementing parklands — Park & Rec should be leading the environmental revolution

David Romano.
David Romano

• • • • • • • • • • March 21, 2024 • • • • • • • • • •

YYou can see the news in the San Francisco Chronicle every Sunday: Earthweek: Diary of a Changing World, by Steve Newman.
“A new study (by University of Rhode Island scientists) finds the microplastic pollution that now permeates the planet can travel to the brain and cause behavioral changes.” - Week ending Friday, September 22, 2023.

”A new study by the Ocean Conservancy and the University of Toronto found microplastics now contaminate more than a dozen kinds of protein consumed by humans, including beef, breaded shrimp and even tofu.” - Week ending Friday, February 2, 2024.

“Studies have found that microplastic pollution is accumulating not only in our arteries, but also in all 62 human placentas examined.
... the particles have also recently been found in human blood and breast milk, which indicates we are being exposed to the pollution on a massive scale, as are other creatures. “If we’re seeing effects on placentas, then all mammalian life on this planet could be impacted,” said lead researcher Matthew Campen of the University of New Mexico.- Week ending Friday, March 1, 2024.


It seems SF Rec and Park won’t be satisfied until every square foot of Golden Gate Park is concrete and artificial turf. The seven acres of the Beach Chalet Athletic Fields are now entirely concrete and artificial turf.”

Artificial turf should never have been used in the fields of Golden Gate Park or San Francisco. It is toxic, pollutes the environment, and poses a danger to all San Franciscans. The plastic grass continually sheds microplastics and can’t be recycled or disposed of in a landfill. Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD), and Mark Buell, former President of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission, are directly responsible for the presence of artificial turf in our parks.

Phil Ginsburg, General Manager
Phil Ginsburg

To this day, artificial turf and rubberized surfaces are installed in playing fields and playgrounds. Micro-plastic pollution is a threat to all life on the planet. (see “Microplastics in Clouds Could Be ‘Contaminating Nearly Everything We Eat and Drink‘: Study” By Brett Wilkins September 29. 2023).

“Used tire rubber is put through a cracker mill, producing crumb rubber — tiny pellets of rubber, still carrying those thousands of unknown chemicals. Crumb rubber is then used to manufacture artificial turf and playground surface cover. A 2015 report by Yale scientists analyzed 14 different samples used for school athletic fields and playgrounds. They detected 96 chemicals, most of which have never been carefully studied. The National Center for Health Research has identified lead, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, and other chemicals that harm human health. Ingesting these chemicals is not advised. Unfortunately, they can get into a child’s bloodstream in other ways. The steam from a playground surface on a sunny day can be inhaled. Any scrape or skin burn invites exposure. Simply rolling on the surface can allow seepage into the skin’s pores.” - Don Kahle, The Register-Guard, Eugene OR 12/13/2020.

“Scientists have shown that both the grass-like blades and the backing of artificial turf contain PFAS, highly toxic fluorinated chemicals. PFAS are known as ”forever chemicals” since they accumulate in the body and do not break down. They have been linked to endocrine disruption and cancer. Children are especially vulnerable to harm from PFAS because of their developing bodies and the chemicals’ persistence in the body. In a recent New York Times Op Ed piece (What Are Sperm Telling Us?), we read that ‘Chemical companies are as reckless as tobacco companies were a generation ago, or as opioid manufacturers were a decade ago. They even lobby against safety testing of endocrine disruptors, so that we have little idea if products we use each day are damaging our bodies or our children. We’re all guinea pigs.’ Most people think manufacturers must prove that chemicals are safe before they put them on the market. They are wrong. Weak and outdated federal law presumes that most chemicals are safe until proven toxic.” -Real Grass for Healthy Kids! March 12, 2021.

artificial turf illustration

Phil Ginsburg seems to have missed what John McLaren, the “father” of Golden Gate Park and Park superintendent for 56 years, had to say about the Park that Ginsburg now superintends. McLaren didn’t even want statues in the Park and tried to hide them by planting bushes around them. What would he think of “Entwined,” the electric light installation, or the massive concrete slab that’s been installed in the middle of the Polo Field, or the seven acres of artificial turf and concrete that took the place of grass at the Beach Chalet Soccer Fields?

If Ginsburg bothered to look at the Golden Gate Park Master Plan, he would see that he had taken a wrong turn. “The purpose of Golden Gate Park is to serve as an open space preserve in the midst of San Francisco. This historic Park is a cultivated pastoral and sylvan landscape, defined by an abundant evergreen woodland. It is designed and managed to afford opportunities for all to experience beauty, tranquility, recreation, and relief from urban pressures.” (Mission Statement, 1998 Golden Gate Park Master Plan). And what is meant by recreation is not Ferris Wheels, music festivals and pay-to-play soccer under night lighting on artificial turf. Recreation in Golden Gate Park, for the great majority of residents using the Park, means walking, running and biking, as anyone who visits the Park can plainly see.

It seems SF Rec and Park won’t be satisfied until every square foot of Golden Gate Park is concrete and artificial turf. The seven acres of the Beach Chalet Athletic Fields are now entirely concrete and artificial turf.

The amount of concrete being proposed for renovating the 9th Avenue entrance to the Park is truly frightening; a concrete extravaganza.

Unfortunately, since the beginning of the tenure of Newsom appointees Phil Ginsburg as General Manager of SFRPD and Mark Buell (now retired) as President of the Recreation and Parks Commission, the Recreation has been at the expense of the Park. The preservation of “open space” has been replaced by commercialization of the Park. The Outside Lands music festival is a prime example; a large part of the Park is fenced off by a private, for-profit company, Another Planet Entertainment (APE), and the residents are locked out. The City gets a slice of the money generated, but most of it goes to APE.

The massive amounts of concrete poured at the Dog Training Area, along with all the artificial turf, is another example of how Golden Gate Park is being degraded. The long-term health of the Park, and the planet, is not served by concrete and plastic grass.

Please, Phil Ginsburg, stop poisoning our world.

David Romano is an environmental activist living near Ocean Beach

March 21, 2024

David Romano.
David Romano

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