Carmel Valley park’s synthetic turf project to begin this fall

The upper field at Carmel Valley Community Park will be replaced with synthetic turf.
(Karen Billing)

After years of delay, the Carmel Valley Community Park turf replacement project appears finally ready to begin this fall. The new synthetic turf will cover the 2.7-acre field above the recreation center on Townsgate Drive.

“I’m very excited, I think it’s going to be great for the community to actually get this done and finally see some progress,” said Marilee Pacelli, chair of the Carmel Valley Community Recreation Group.

The city recently sent an email to all recreational sports user groups that the field would be shut down for potentially a year during the construction.

The $5.4 million project was approved by the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board back in 2015. The then-advisory group made the recommendation for synthetic turf as it provided for a more consistent and level multipurpose field that required less irrigation, fertilization and maintenance. On average, it requires 70,000 gallons of water per week for the 2.7-acre field.

The Carmel Valley Community Recreation Group then approved the project in 2019.

In addition to the turf replacement, the project also includes Americans with Disabilities (ADA) path improvements from the recreation center up to the field, a new accessible drinking fountain with pet bowl, accessible picnic table and bleachers.

Pacelli said with artificial turf there are always mixed reviews but the reality is the city has so much demand for the use of those fields, which are also lit.

“Given the amount of use the fields in our community get, the only way to really be able to make it safe and playable is to go to an artificial turf,” said Pacelli. “It’s just really the only way to go in terms of allowing user groups the time to go out there and not be shut down….We don’t have too many options if we really want to serve the kids and families in this community.”

According to a 2019 city presentation, the synthetic turf installed would meet or exceed federal, state and local health requirements. The plan is to use an infill made of cork material which is organic and non-toxic, preferable to the alternative infill of crumb rubber made from old shredded car tires. An underlay pad and infill absorb the shock from falls.

The synthetic turf will still get hotter than a natural turf field would. In full sun, on hot days the surface of the artificial turf is 30 to 50% hotter than the air temperature. Two feet above the surface it is 5% hotter than the air temperature and five feet above the surface it is equal to the air temperature.

The Carmel Valley Rec advisory group has received updates on the project for years and it was just a question of when it was actually going to happen. The user groups have been prepared for it to happen eventually but Pacelli said there will be disruptions and displacements— fall is such a big time for soccer.

Back in 2015, synthetic turf was also approved for Ocean Air Community Park, however, the plan was axed and the fields were repaired and refurbished in 2021 thanks to a partnership between the city and Carmel Valley’s Friday Night Lights league.

Work on Ocean Air Park enhancements such as a new concession stand with a restroom, new picnic shelters and new shade structures are slated to begin in 2024.

The Carmel Valley Rec group has also considered another change for the community park: the addition of pickleball courts.

“I think it’s something the community would love,” Pacelli said.

The courts have been proposed for the space right off the main parking lot at the rec center, an area once targeted for a boxed multi-sport arena. A private group presented to the group at their last meeting in May and have been in discussions with the city. The group has offered funding to build the public courts which would be on a reservation system for play.

The courts would require approval from the advisory group and the city. The item has yet to be docketed on the group’s next quarterly meeting.

The turf replacement project also includes a new ADA path of travel and new drinking fountains.
(Karen Billing)