To the Editor:

We are a group of moms writing to express our serious concerns about the field on which our kids now practice.

Wilton Youth Football is allowed to use the facilities at Middlebrook School for their six hours of practice a week. Most of our coaches are dads who work and most often can’t get to the field until 6 p.m.. This has always worked out well as it has allowed our children to come home from school, start their homework, eat dinner and then head to practice. This time of year, however, it starts to get darker earlier, especially now that summer has officially ended, and practicing from 6-8 p.m. leaves a lot less natural light time.

This was okay in years past as Wilton Youth Football was able to use portable lights. This allowed our children to practice at those times. This has all changed this year. A very disgruntled neighbor who has been opposing the proposed turf and light project at Middlebrook has forced us to turn off our portable lights and has basically left our children in the dark. We have submitted some photos of what it has been like for these young men.

Not only are they at a great risk by playing on that field–which is in horrible condition–but now they are at even greater risk because they can’t see. The Youth Football program has now tried to squeeze as many teams onto the one field that has lights. This also causes a great risk as these boys are trying to run plays and get prepared for opponents so they don’t get hurt but now there is such little room for them to do this.

This is a grave concern. As moms in this wonderful town and community we are so saddened by why someone would be so intent on making life miserable–and now dangerous–for a wonderful group of children who are only trying to play and practice a sport they love. Their safety is our concern.

Please look at the pictures of what Middlebrook field looks like currently.

We also think it’s important to see these other photos:  children with cuts, boys in medical boots after twisting an ankle in a hole in the field, and photos of rocks that are pretty much the foundation of the entire field on which our kids play. This is completely unacceptable.

They say grass fields are safer? It has not rained in two months so the “dustbowl” (Middlebrook field’s nickname) that is the grass field has gotten so much worse. As a result, we have one team that has three kids out sick with sinus infections from breathing in all the dust that has been flying around up there as the “grass” is non-existent. One 8th grade player had to be put on oral antibiotics and cream because his leg was so badly torn up from the rocks that it got infected. There were actually pieces of rock stuck in his leg.

Don’t just take it from us. Diane McDermott, a Wilton parent and EMT had this to say:

“Having had two children go through the Wilton Youth program in the past I know what the teams, players and coaches deal with regarding the fields and lights. I have been out of the Youth program for a few years now but am involved as a certified EMT on-site a few days a week during practice and am startled at how poor the conditions of the fields are. The dust, rocks and uneven playing surface is a real problem which can lead to all kinds of injuries to these young athletes. Add in the fact that WYF is no longer able to use the portable lights on the upper field and a scary situation just got worse!”

Wilton Youth Football has 11 teams that use the field at Middlebrook – 11! Each team has at least 20 or more kids. Our coaches have policies that these young men must attend practice and actually have contact to play in their game each week. Without that practice time, the kids won’t be prepared enough, and our coaches do not feel it is safe to put an unprepared player out on the field. But how can 11 teams get in six hours of practice time with the proper contact and proper drills and technique to keep our boys safe week after week?

Our sons are practicing on an unsafe playing field, week after week, and then we ask them to go out, to compete without having had adequate practice time, against other towns–all of which, by the way, have beautiful, well-lit facilities to practice on.

This has to end. As moms, we chose this wonderful town and community to live in because it provided so much for our families. It is a town that supports one another, looks out for one another, helps those in need. We have seen it time and time again. We race for pediatric cancer. We walk or run for the education foundation. We volunteer our time for children’s theatre. When people are down and out, we feed, clothe and collect what we can to help make a difference. That is what Wilton is all about.

It is now time for others to step up and realize, these kids are down and out. They need someone to help make a difference for them. We help everyone else. We are asking for a little bit of help here. Put everything else aside and look at these photos. This is not OK! Allow us to give our sons light so they can practice and allow us to turf this field so our sons can be safe. Isn’t that what this town does? Kids are getting sick, kids are getting hurt, there is proof in the pictures. This is no longer about a few disgruntled neighbors, it is about Planning and Zoning passing this project, allowing Wilton to do what it does best by helping all children of this town have a safe, well-lit place to play.

Thank you,

Karin Hyzy
Cara Calabrese
Dawn Caratozzolo
Cristina Lenz
Olivia Savarese
Chrissy Silva
Jamie O’Neill
Jen Hough
Mary Chila
Michele Sorbo
Christine Polito
TaraLeigh Masterson

11 replies on “Wilton Youth Football Moms: The Field We Have NOW Isn’t Safe [LETTER]”

  1. I fully support WYF and all other sports related activities for the youngsters in Wilton. However, blaming a “disgruntled neighbor” is not a good way to win your case. The P&Z commissioners who are not in favor of the plan are required to do so by town zoning regulations specifically, Section 29-9.E.2.a. These regulations were put in place to protect all of us and I suspect, that if you were in the “disgruntled neighbor’s” position you too would be opposed to the plan.

  2. I constantly hear about opposition to lights and turf on town fields as a health and safety issue. Instead of conflicting studies with no clear conclusion, here we have a story showing actual injuries to kids playing on our fields right now. We are not waiting for a government agency to make a ruling, nor do we need to hold yet another hearing with testimony from both sides- with each claiming the other has their own agenda. If the concern is safety, and everyone involved truly believes we need to “think of the children!”, then look no further than the photo evidence above. Would someone tell me how these supposed “regulations” that “were put in place to protect all of us” are helping protect these kids? If the neighbor in question has their own photos of how temporary lights on a field near their house injured them, please share them. If not, get those lights back up before a child is seriously hurt. Even though I am a Wilton resident with no children involved or playing there, I actually DO care about the well-being of those kids!

  3. I believe you’re mixing apples and oranges. Safety for the children is important but safety has nothing to do with the zoning regulations in this matter. In general, zoning regulations are in place to protect all of us from others intruding on our space and overall peace. Without zoning regulations you might find that an unwanted commercial establishment is moving onto property right next to your home with all of its attendant comings/goings and noise. I suspect that you would not be too thrilled about that situation and neither would I.

    1. I believe you don’t seem to understand the basic principle of cause and effect. If the zoning regulations in question are leading to the situation that results in the injuries being cited in this story, then one has everything to do with the other. Further, if the only thing preventing changes to the regulations in this particular case is the “harm” that will be done to the “space” and “peace” of some residents, then let those residents come forward (as these parents have) with examples demonstrating that harm. I think it very unlikely that a resident posting a photo with a caption along the lines of “look at the field lighting shining into my property” would gather much sympathy. It is certainly possible- a huge flashing neon sign or something of that nature could very well show tremendous impact, but everything I have seen and read indicates that is not the case here. Just as an officer has the ability to technically pull a person over for speeding if they are driving at 38 mph in a 35 mph zone, the general community likely would agree that focusing on those drivers going 45-50+mph are the ones that should be cited. We have rules in our society, but those rules should allow opportunities for common sense- especially when kids are apparently being injured on a daily basis.

    2. Interestingly, some of the commissioners have objected to the turf field on grounds of “safety concerns.” Worried that the town would be liable if fears about turf materials become more definitive in future years, they don’t want to approve the plan if it turns out crumb rubber turf fill isn’t safe.

      ‘Safety’ has played center stage during this entire issue, as opponents have based much of their argument against the field on safety concerns, calling in experts to attest to how unsafe the artificial field would be. So too have proponents talked about unsafe playing conditions as a motivation to want to artificially turf the field.

      1. Actually Heather, one of the main cases for the turf is making the fields more available- even in the case of bad weather. Wilton Parks & Rec “closes” grass fields during or after heavy rain to allow time for proper drainage- a problem that would rarely be an issue with turf. This situation is a pretty common occurrence in Wilton during the Spring and Fall. I have no doubt parents and kids would be happy to play on lush real grass fields with good lighting if that was an option. Maintaining those fields in prime condition given all the use they get is difficult and no doubt expensive (check out Guy Whitten field a few months into the football or lacrosse season). However, anything is better than the large amount of dirt, rocks, and weeds you see at Middlebrook now.

        1. Oh, I know. I was responding to LTWR, given his/her statement that ‘safety has nothing to do with zoning regulations in this matter.’ My point was that both sides have included the topic of safety in their arguments, and more pointedly, multiple commissioners have focused on safety (and interpretations of safety issues) in their reasoning and opinions on the matter. Having covered this for the last few years, I’m definitely aware of the multi-layered arguments for and against.

  4. I don’t believe the zoning regulations have anything at all to do with safety. The common sense zoning regulations are in place to ensure a balance between those who want to intrude on others peace and space and those who see no harm in doing so. Again, I’m in complete support of WYF and other youth sports and activities. However, I also support an individuals rights and I’m sure you do too – put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The solution appears to be in changing the zoning regulations but until those regulations are changed those in favor of turf/lights should find a more suitable/available location. I suggest WYF use Veterans Memorial Stadium, the adjacent softball/baseball fields and Lilley Field – two of which are turfed and all are lighted and appear to be available most nights.

    1. “… those who want to intrude on others peace and space and those who see no harm in doing so…” — Making the same claim repeatedly does not confirm it as being true. Once again, while I see clear evidence of the harm being done to kids, I have yet to see any evidence of the “intrusion” into the “peace and space” of anyone. If you have such evidence, or know others that do, please share it. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes based on claims without anything necessary to judge the merit of those claims. I don’t like train whistles, and Metro North intrudes on my “peace” repeatedly each day. Shall we cancel train service to Wilton? The claim the fields are “available most nights” is amazing… do you even live in Wilton? You obviously don’t see those fields regularly. Let’s use one example- take this week at the WHS turf field (AKA- Fujitani Field or Memorial Stadium). The field is currently being used every day after school for HS football practice, Wed from 4-6:30 for HS Field Hockey, Mon-Thurs from 7-8:30 by Youth Field Hockey, and Friday from 6-8 by Youth Football. If that qualifies as “available” in your mind, I would hate to see your definition of unavailable!

      1. I’m not sure why you ignore or don’t think the current zoning regulations are critical to this issue but to me, that’s the primary issue. As time permits, take a couple of minutes to read the news report in the current edition of The Wilton Bulletin (10/1/15) Page 2 – “Turf talks continued again.” The exchange between Chairman Chris Hulse and some of the Commissioners, especially, Commissioner Joe Fiteni summarizes the whole matter. So with that in mind, I believe those supporting turf/lights need to make the case for amending the current P&Z Regulations. As an aside, the comparison to train whistles and Metro North (a bit of a stretch but I’ll go along) – let’s assume you were living in your home BEFORE the railroad decided to encroach on your space and overall peace by running the railroad line past your home – I’m sure you too would take advantage of every available resource to prevent them from doing so and you would have every right and good reason to do so! Lastly, the sample schedule for this week is revealing – WYF has ample opportunity to make use of the facilities at the high school starting with Wednesdays at 6:30 PM and Fridays as scheduled and with a little cooperation from YFH the field could be shared from Monday through Thursday nights and if not, consider using the lighted softball/baseball space and the Lilley Field complex (turf and grass and both lighted). Bottom line, I firmly believe that the only solution is a legal one – amending the current P&Z Regulations.

        1. I realize this probably wasn’t your intention, but the article you referenced is helping to make my point. You are saying the current zoning regulations must be followed, and if someone doesn’t like those rules, they should work to amend them. According to the article, there was no clear answer to the question of the current regulations in regard to this issue, and there were an even number of commissioners on both sides. In fact, when asked, the Town Planner specifically said the commissioners “have the ability to interpret these regulations”. You have not mentioned my earlier speeding comparison, but if we follow your logic- you believe anyone going 36+ mph in a 35 mph zone should be stopped and ticketed. I believe, and think most would agree, our community is better served by allowing officers the ability to interpret the laws to some extent, and give tickets to those driving at a speed that presents a potential danger given the conditions (in my example- 45-50+ mph on a clear, dry day), rather than repeatedly changing speed limits. Regarding the Metro North comparison, simply complaining about the whistle is not enough. If someone lived in Wilton, and Metro North decided to move their tracks, and residents could show that those new tracks would be running through their property, they would absolutely have a case. I am willing to bet they would get plenty of support if they could ACTUALLY SHOW the potential harm being done. So far, I still have only seen examples of actual harm from one side- parents with injured children. As to your comment on field usage and sharing the space, according to their web sites, youth field hockey has 9 active teams, and youth football has 11. If we assume and average of 18 kids on each team, that is 360 children. How would you propose we “share” the field to accommodate them. What happens when any of the teams (including HS Freshman , JV, or Varsity) have home games on the field? I only looked at one field (WHS Turf) and don’t know the usage schedule on the others. I also didn’t look at baseball, lacrosse, or soccer schedules at high school and youth levels. I am making the assumption the results at one field likely are similar for the others, given the number of sports and kids involved. However, I am open to correction if you have information that shows a different conclusion.

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