Artificial-turf fibres foul creek, forcing closing of Oak Bay High sports field

The artificial-turf field at Oak Bay High School has been covered and closed to prevent more artificial grass strands from washing into nearby Bowker Creek.

Kim Morris, secretary treasurer of the Greater Victoria School District, said the decision was made Monday to close and cover the soccer pitch to prevent further material from escaping.

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The field, opened three years ago as a “state of the art” artificial turf, will be replaced under warranty in the spring, Morris said.

The field’s closing means community users, especially minor-league soccer teams, will lose a venue.

Morris said the school district is working with community groups to see if use of replacement fields can be arranged.

She said the school district was alerted on Friday that the field was shedding artificial-grass fibres and other non-biodegradable material, which was being washed into the storm-water system and Bowker Creek.

Investigations over the weekend confirmed the shedding was happening.

Soren Henrich, chairman of the Friends of Bowker Creek, called the latest example of the field’s material breaking down unfortunate. Henrich said when the field was first installed, it was shedding small plastic pellets.

“The whole idea of putting plastic so close to the creek doesn’t sound like a great idea, especially without any provisions for filtering and keeping material out of the creek.”

Henrich credited the school district with installing guards to direct runoff water around the school grounds and designing appropriate drainage for all fields prior to the rebuilt school’s re-opening in 2015. “There was a lot of good things done during the rebuilding of that school.”

Once seen as little more than an urban drainage ditch, Bowker Creek is now considered part of a natural ecosystem winding its way through an urban environment from the woods of the University of Victoria, through the Mount Tolmie and Cedar Hill neighbourhoods and into Oak Bay.

Henrich said community outreach and education and local-government initiatives have raised local knowledge of the creek.

“It’s like a ribbon park with access to nature and flowing water right in the city,” he said.

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