Synthetic Turf in DTSS

Peterson Companies decided to renovate the block of Ellsworth Drive that’s already mostly a pedestrian plaza. We were not in theory opposed to careful renovation. The developer chose to add a layer of astroturf (synthetic turf or plastic grass) to what is now the asphalt road. This was in theory to make it more inviting.

FOSC and other groups and individuals have reacted negatively to this proposal, for detailed reasons laid out in the letters and testimony below. We have had meetings, testified before the Montgomery Planning Board, and even gave a technical paper on the topic. It’s an active issue, as this is just one area where it’s being used. But it’s one that’s very visible, highly trafficked, and in our watershed.

Focus on: Ellsworth Drive Synthetic Turf Proposal

Plastic bits from artificial turf outside Discovery blgd 9.2020

Plastic bits from artificial turf outside Discovery bldg 9.2020

April, 2022 Update: The proposed abandonment of Ellsworth Drive is still at the County Executive’s office. Evidence of the toxicity of the components of synthetic turf has grown – polluting in its manufacture, installation, and its rapid degradation with use. In downtown Silver Spring, the residues it releases would be washed directly into Sligo Creek with no filtering or control, jeopardizing the water quality of the Creek. Please write to County Executive Elrich to oppose the abandonment of the roadbed and the use of synthetic turf on Ellsworth Drive.

Jan 22, 2021 Update: Please write to County Executive Marc Elrich expressing opposition to the abandonment of Ellsworth Drive at:

[email protected] with a copy to his assistant at: [email protected]

Marc is preparing to send the County Council his recommendations on the abandonment of 2 blocks of Ellsworth Drive as part of a landscaping proposal that would install synthetic turf on the roadbed. Leaching of the toxic adhesive coatings used to install the turf add to the urgency to stop this aspect of the proposal.

Oct 1 Update: The County Hearing Officer received public testimony and will make a recommendation to the County Executive; the County Executive will make a recommendation to the County Council; and the Council will vote on whether to approve the abandonment (transfer ownership from the public sector to the private developer) of part of Ellsworth Drive. This is an important issue for downtown Silver Spring. FOSC opposes roadway abandonment to allow installation of synthetic turf because of human health, water quality, and other environmental pollution impacts, including impacts on wildlife.

Sept 23 Update: Written testimony can be submitted through Sept 28

Your testimony should be addressed to the MCDOT Hearing Examiner Tiara McCray, at: [email protected].

Please include “cc: the County Council and the the County Executive” in your letter since the process precludes sending them anything directly now. View FOSC’s written testimony on the synthetic turf and abandonment issue on the Letters and Testimony page.

Sept 14 Update: On Monday, Sept. 14, the County Executive held a public hearing on abandonment of this portion of Ellsworth Drive proposed for installation of synthetic turf.

Sept 3 Update: Now is the time to voice your views!

Register to give testimony via Zoom at the County Executive’s public hearing on “abandonment” (transfer from public to private ownership) of the portion of Ellsworth Drive for which synthetic turf is proposed. The hearing is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14 at 12 noon. Or submit written testimony to: Tiara McCray, Property Acquisition, MCDOT, 100 Edison Park Drive, 4th Floor, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, or [email protected].

This is an important issue for downtown Silver Spring. FOSC opposes synthetic turf for human health and environmental pollution impacts. See FOSC’s letter to the Planning Board in June under Letters and Testimony.

July 16 update: The Planning Board declined to revisit their decision. They referred the proposed transfer of the street from public ownership to private ownership (the Ellsworth Drive development group), officially termed “abandonment”, to the County Council for their action.

July 8 update: The Montgomery County Planning Board gave its approval, by a vote of 3-0, for installation of synthetic turf by the developer/owner on the block between Fenton Street and Georgia Ave. After FOSC and other local environmental groups as well as many downtown Silver Spring residents raised important questions about impact of microplastic and maintenance-related air pollution on the creek, its wildlife, and the people who walk, sit, or play on synthetic turf, the Planning Board agreed to consider whether or not to revisit its decision at its July 16 meeting.

Synthetic turf, or “synturf,” consists of polyethylene with numerous coatings. FOSC testimony at the Planning Board meeting has the details on its composition and impacts.

Next steps: Expressing FOSC’s opposition to the County Council. Contact [email protected] if you’re interested in helping with this issue.

Described as “world-class” pedestrian friendly “green space” that will transform this portion of Ellsworth Drive “from the current strip of asphalt to an open, clean, green, and attractive area.”

Real plantings of trees, bushes, native plants and grasses would be a higher quality development providing shade and permeability without hazardous solvent cleaners and micro plastic pollution.

Graphic: courtesy of The Peterson Companies