Let’s talk ovals – Part two (the grassy edition)

The open forum on the ‘School Oval Redevelopment Master Plan’ is just a week away (Wednesday 11th June at 7pm, at the school) – hopefully you’ve had an opportunity to look at the discussion paper or the information posted on the notice boards next to the library.

The Buildings & Grounds sub-committee (B&G) have investigated a range of options for the management of the school oval and will present research undertaken for the three most relevant options at this stage (ranging from ‘do nothing’ to new synthetic or grass surfaces). B&G are open to other options which may end up warranting a similar level of investigation and all options are being considered in relation to broader school priorities, fundraising and a long-term, holistic plan for the oval.

Last week, convener of the Buildings & Grounds sub-committee (B&G), Stewart Waters, gave us his thoughts on synthetic surfaces. This week, I welcome Kath Phelan, a parent member of the B&G sub-committee and mother of Oskar in grade three and Moritz in grade one, to provide some information on grass ovals.  

What has happened with our oval in the past?

In 2008 the oval was in worse condition than now because it didn’t have any regular maintenance beyond mowing and some watering.

grass-ovals-KPS_oval_nthend

An external sporting club approached the school with an offer to pay for a new synthetic oval at no cost, including a fence around the oval, night lighting,and all maintenance and upkeep. They would do all this in return for exclusive access outside school hours. However the School Council decided to stay with grass because of the exclusive access requirement.

In 2009 the PTA raised $15,000 and all families were asked to pay a levy to go towards fixing the grass. The work was extensive and involved reseeding, fixing sprinklers and so forth. The oval was closed for six months, and when it was reopened, it was in perfect condition and remained that way for some time.

During 2010/11, builders were given site access across half of the oval for the Building the Education Revolution (BER) works. We were actually lucky that we didn’t permanently lose half the oval to the actual building. But all those trucks driving across the oval compacted the soil and it was never properly fixed. Then the sprinklers were not turned on over summer…and it’s difficult to rehabilitate what was no longer there!

grass-ovals-KPS_oval_sthend_BER

At the moment, our oval is mowed a couple of times a year. The irrigation system is serviced annually and it waters the oval three times a week in the middle of the night for about 20 minutes.

What does current research say about grass?

The Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation has put together some interesting tables which compare the health, social and environmental impacts of natural grass versus synthetic turf. Those points, in addition to the more intrinsic value of natural grass provide a range of benefits. Specifically –

  • grass feels cooler and is softer, natural and smells pleasant
  • grass dissipates heat so heat-related injuries are unlikely
  • it has been used for a long time for different types of sports
  • it looks good if it is well maintained
  • it allows water to soak through to the soil and it can help improve the soil by stimulating biological life and organic biodiversity
  • grass is permeable and provides natural infiltration of water therefore reducing pollution and volume of water run-off
  • it cools the surrounding environment, helps reduce noise levels and softens reflected light and glare
  • and lastly, our grassy oval is the largest area of natural surface in the school and for that reason alone is well worth maintaining!

What are some possible grass options?

The Building and Grounds subcommittee has looked into three options for fixing up the grass. We could just patch around the goals using rolls of turf; we could use the turf rolls for the whole oval (or inside the running track); or we could reseed the whole oval (or inside the running track). The last option is the approach taken in 2009.

We have also received quotes for more ongoing maintenance. This could involve slice and aerating, fertilising, mowing, spraying the weeds and even over-sowing with rye grass which would provide grass during the winter. We have a quote from one company who priced a rolling maintenance program rather than doing a total overhaul of the oval.

A local state primary school where the oval is well maintained

A local state primary school where the oval is well maintained

Cost comparisons are available in the discussion paper on the school website and on the posters opposite the office.

So is there a simple solution to having a lovely green grass oval?

If only there was!

If the school community decides that a lovely green grass oval is a priority, then we will have to spend money on it. We could have an external contractor come in and give the oval the full spa treatment! It is also a school space management issue as ovals do well with a bit of a rest: grass contractors recommend a week either side of school holidays.
But the main message from the contractors is that maintenance and watering are key to keeping the oval in good condition.

Kath Phelan

A local state primary school where the oval is well maintained

A local state primary school where the oval is well maintained

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