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The first artificial turf fields at Anne Arundel County parks should be installed by the end of the spring sports season.
Once the snow melts, Anne Arundel County will begin converting two multipurpose grass fields at Kinder Farm Park in Millersville into all-weather turf, Recreation and Parks Director Rick Anthony said Tuesday.
The fields in Kinder Farm Park are part of a nearly $2 million countywide project that will build two other turf fields in the western or northern part of the county in the next few years, Anthony said.
"We've identified areas (to place the additional fields) in west or north county - in that order because of population growth in that part," Anthony said.
Funding for the project comes from state Program Open Space funds, county general funds and a $300,000 donation from the Green Hornets, a youth sports organization that often uses and maintains fields in the Severna Park feeder school system.
Green Hornets executive director Joshua Banks said about 8,000 county kids play sports through his organization.
Banks said its board of directors started collecting money for "unknown" capital projects 15 years ago.
"Helping fund the project was a good investment for our kids," he wrote in an email.
County Executive Laura Neuman approved the project in the county budget in May, but Del. Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, said the discussion to replace the fields began about a decade ago when Vitale was a County Council member.
The plan to convert the park's fields to all-weather turf was catalyzed by the plan to rebuild Severna Park High School a few miles away, Vitale said.
The project fulfills a timely need, since a new Severna Park High would be built on top of existing all-weather sports fields, said County Councilman Dick Ladd, R-Severna Park.
"The turf field (at Severna Park High) now is used until 10 o'clock at night by sports and recreation groups," Vitale said.
Severna Park's home games will be played at Old Mill High School during construction, but removing the school's fields would aggravate the "tremendous" shortage of playing space throughout Anne Arundel County, Ladd said.
It would take three or four years for new sports fields to be built, he said.
"Rather than having (Severna Park High students) drive literally 20, 30, 40 miles and get playing time, one of the options was to try to make better use of Kinder Park," Ladd said. "They're going to be able to get additional playing surfaces they really can use up there."
Currently, the two grass fields at Kinder Farm Park suffer from poor drainage in a "bowl-shaped" area. Sports teams have to cancel games or practices on rainy days, Vitale said.
The artificial turf would be able to withstand not only wet weather, but the "wear and tear" of heavier high school kids, Ladd said.
"Maintenance on it is a lot less than grass fields," he said. "It would pay for itself over time."