Sustainable solutions for sports grounds

As Australia grapples with water shortages and waste and sustainability crises, councils are exploring new, smarter ways of managing their parks and sports grounds.

As Australia’s waste load continues to grow and water levels in some regions drop to record lows, a number of councils are taking a lead on water usage and waste generation, including experiment with recycled materials and sustainable water management at their sports fields and public parks.

With most synthetic turf made up of plastics – 91 per cent of which end up in landfill – a number of countries from across the globe are leading the way in the use of sustainable materials in urban design to reduce landfill.

In the European Union, for example, authorities are rolling out restrictions on the use of rubbers in synthetic turf pitches both to allay health concerns and curb waste, with the Netherlands leading the charge.

Now, a number of Australian councils are  following the lead and experimenting with the use of recycled artificial turf and sustainable storm water systems to minimise the environmental footprint of projects.

It also comes as local councils face mounting pressure over population growth, with some Sydney councils set to see population growth outpace supply of sports grounds by 20 per cent.

Northbridge Oval

Willoughby Council has recently completed a makeover of Northbridge Oval by recycling existing materials.

The 10,000 metre square field is one of the first publicly available synthetic turf sports grounds of its size in Sydney.

The field uses synthetic turf filled with washed silica sand and recycled crumb rubber sourced from more than 25,000 car tires, saving the equivalent of 69 tonnes from going to landfill.

This method has saved council thousands of dollars, a representative from Willoughby Council told Government News. 

“Northbridge Oval was resurfaced in January 2019 with 69 tonnes of rubber infill granule reused from the existing surface, saving Willoughby City Council $43,000.

“The granule is an essential synthetic field component and provides impact cushioning for players. This was a positive outcome as it reduced the cost of the field resurfacing and saved the granule from going to landfill.

“It was the first time Willoughby City Council had recycled rubber infill from a synthetic field and as it was a success, it will be considered for similar projects,” they said.

Northbridge Oval

The oval also uses cutting-edge water harvesting methods, equipped with a vertical draining base made of concrete which collects rainfall for storage in dams.

The water collection system saves council more than 5 million litres of water each year and collects more than 7 million litres each year.

Meanwhile, Stonnington City Council in Victoria used synthetic turf for Gardiner Park AFL field, providing a quality, all-weather field that can be used around the year.

Gore Hill Park

Another park in the Willoughby area, Gore Hill Park, is also experimenting with sustainable ways to manage water.

The park in 2017 underwent a $10.5 million redevelopment which saw council fit out the park with an underground water retention tank.

Gore Hill Park on the North Shore of Sydney

As well as being fitted with an underground water tank aimed at collecting storm water, the park features bike racks, a playground, picnic tables, a function room, kiosk and accessible change rooms.

The project, which opened in March this year, was recognised at the Parks and Leisure Awards for innovative design, receiving  a high commendation.

Sydney Park’s water reuse project

In central Sydney, one of the area’s biggest parks recently underwent a massive redevelopment which has seen it transformed into a sustainable water catchment.

The 44-hectare multi-award-winning parkland is the city’s largest environmental project to date, and uses local water capture methods for reuse in the park.

Sydney Park in Erksineville is part of the city’s bid to achieve 10 per cent of water demand through local water capture as part of its Sustainable Sydney 2030 plan.

Sydney Park captures 850 millilitres of water each year and reuses it to irrigate the park.

The eco-hub uses water sensitive urban design to capture rainwater and use it to irrigate the park, capturing an incredible 850 millilitres each year.

The park features a series of interconnected wetlands, cascades and spillways with sculptures and other interactive elements.

The park’s sustainable design has seen it take out a swag of awards, including at the Good Design and Civic Trust Awards.

Councils under pressure 

The shift towards sustainable design comes as councils come under pressure to keep up with demand for sporting grounds.

Earlier this year a report from the Alliance of Northern Sydney Councils (NSROC) warned that many councils will, by 2039, be unable to accommodate population growth with their current capacity of sports grounds.

NSROC in March last year released the report warning of a major shortfall in the supply and capacity of sports grounds.

The report found many facilities are already over capacity – forecasting that within 20 years an additional supply of 40 per cent would be required to support the needs of the region’s projected population.

With a population slated to grow 36.4 per cent to 752,600 by 2036, an additional supply of 26 per cent would be needed by the year 2026 and an additional supply of 40 per cent by 2036, the report says.

The report calls for the creation of new or upgraded community infrastructure to keep pace with the growth.

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