In an effort to get more use out of greenspace in around new retail developments, The Woodlands has turned to artificial turf. Newly opened parks using the turf are Creekside Park Village Green, above, the pier and the recently opened dog park in Hughes Landing.
As the Howard Hughes Corp. continues to build out its last major retail village on the south side of The Woodlands, it has focused attention on its manicured center.
Creekside Park Village Green features a tree-lined park surrounded by retail and walkways. But most of what’s green at the Village Green isn’t grass. The park is lined with synthetic turf.
“We studied numerous mixed-use projects here in Houston and nationally that have a park whether it was natural turf or artificial turf. In all those projects, you get positives and negatives with both. Ultimately, we wanted these parks to be utilized year round,” said Jim Carman, director of building development at Hughes Landing.
For many, the faux grass comes as a sigh of relief. The parks can be used in any weather because it drains water well, and the parks won’t turn into a muddy field after events or a major downpour.
“After Iron Man, Town Green Park became a mud field. With synthetic turf, you can have heavy rains like you’re having now, and you can play a few hours later,” said Bruce Tough, chairman of The Woodlands Township.
In recent weeks, Texas and the greater Houston area has received on onslaught of rain. May registered as the wettest month in Texas history, said state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon.
The synthetic turf is primarily made of a polyethylene monofilament. When rain falls, the water is absorbed by the infill, which is the absorbent bottom layer. The synthetic turf is also pet-friendly, so dogs and other pet owners don’t have to worry about ruining the lawn.
Currently, around two-thirds of the parks and fields under the purview of the township are made with synthetic turf.
“What we try to do is keep our championship fields natural and the rest synthetic,” Tough said.
But there is a drawback. Anything that is spilled on the grass, say ice cream or mustard, stays on it until it’s washed off because the fake grass itself is non-absorbent. The sand and gravel infill also has to be regularly replaced to ensure the grass remains absorbent and dry on top.
Even though the faux grass needs to be regularly washed to keep its manicured appearance, officials at Howard Hughes and the Township say that artificial turf will save on water and lawn maintenance in the long run.
“The natural grass areas that have heavy traffic end up being replaced quite often and aren’t as useful year round. … Also, maintenance and watering of natural grass is something we studied. The maintenance on artificial turf is lower, and the burden on the water supply is lower,” Carman said.
Besides Creekside Park Village Green, the pier and the recently opened dog park in Hughes Landing have also been covered with artificial turf.
Concerns about the link between artificial turf and cancer were brought to light late last year when the township was weighing its turf options during the development of Gosling Sports Fields Complex. The controversy surrounded the use of crumb rubber as an infill for artificial turf, which is the absorbent bottom layer. The concerns followed an investigative article by NBC News that said 38 American soccer players had been diagnosed with cancer but that there was no scientific data that suggested a link between the rubber crumb infill and cancer.
In light of the controversy, the new synthetic turf being laid in Hughes Landing and Creekside Village Green won’t have the black rubber bead infill. Instead, the infill will be 100 percent sand ballast, Carman said.
“When we saw that, we got with the township and talked about it,” Carman said. “Since we’re not using sports fields, we don’t need the rubber ballasts. … The sand ballasts alleviated our concerns.”
Creekside Park Village Green will host its grand opening on July 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.