The UO’s plans for the Knight Campus expansion are currently under review. As a current graduate student in the natural sciences, I am concerned about the ecological consequences of the current proposal to install 5.5 acres of artificial turf athletic fields only 200-300 ft. from the Willamette River.
Artificial turf fields are commonly composed of silicon sand and “crumb rubber” sourced from recycled tires. The rubber and plastic components of these fields also harbor a host of chemicals that are known to endanger human health and the environment. The potential negative ecological ramifications of this decision are numerous.
Of primary concern is that artificial turf fields display a “heat island” effect, wherein the fields absorb and re-emit enough radiation to notably increase air surface temperatures in the localized area. Unfortunately, the localized area for these fields would be the riparian zone and river corridor.
Turf fields also have reduced water infiltration capacity as compared to natural sod, increasing the risk of run-off. Furthermore, the artificial lighting that would be required to sufficiently illuminate 5.5 acres of athletic fields would be detrimental to the wildlife that rely on the Willamette River for habitat and food. The resultant light pollution would be especially harmful to migrating birds who rely on the river corridor for navigation.
The new Knight Campus has been designed to host state-of-the art science and research facilities. I implore the university to consult the scientific literature before progressing with their current land use plan.