Turf the Valley, a non-profit initiative, is raising funds to replace the Montville High School stadium grounds with artificial turf. The effort is similar to the Light the Valley fundraising effort from 1998, organized to raise capital to install lighting for night games in the stadium.
Denise Gauweiler, chairperson of the Turf the Valley committee, is direct about why the renovation needs to take place.
"The field is horrible," she said. "It costs around $250 a bus to relocate to (alternate fields like) Camp Dawson."
Among the proposed benefits of artificial turf in the playing field is a significant decrease of resources necessary for maintaining the grounds. Artificial turf does not need to be cut or watered, and is not prone to seasonal damage such as drought or flooded conditions, something that the sunken nature of grounds is susceptible to. Also, with newer artificial turf innovations, a marked decrease in injuries has been noted, as has the disappearance of accidentally striking sprinkler heads since they are no longer necessary.
There have been attempts to raise funds for artificial turf before, but they were unsuccessful. A proposal was presented to voters in 2005 but was defeated. In 2007, the general budget for the Board Of Education was defeated, so the topic could not even be addressed. Turf the Valley has been hard at work since then.
"After the budget hearings collapsed, we decided to revisit the plan and start (private fundraising) up," Gauweiler said. "We've been doing this for almost three years now."
The current program seeks to raise the money privately, through tax-deductible donations, in order to circumvent red tape and possible failure, since budget cuts throughout the state have already stretched operating costs thin.
The committee is not averse to getting financial support from the Board of Education though, and the subject has been addressed at several board of education meetings.
"The Board of Education would like some numbers from us," Gauweiler said. "Because of the economy, being as it is right now, the prices for this work have actually changed. The original estimate was somewhere around $800,000, but now it could be down to $600,000-to-650,000."
The arena also is home to other school efforts and programs, not just the sports department. The organizers of Turf the Valley insist more can be done on the field if the changes are implemented, and by localizing these events versus needing to travel to other, more acceptable locations, efforts and costs can be streamlined and made more financially stable.
Other fundraising efforts include a fund walk organized by the Kiwanis Club, and a raffle. Raffle tickets cost $100 each, allowing the purchaser eligibility to win a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro, provided by Gearhart Chevy in Denville.
Gauweiler remains confident that the goal will be reached and the field will be renovated.
"There's no way the field can remain in that condition much longer," she said. "Something will have to be done."
While she does not like considering the notion that the funds won't be raised this time around, she is realistic and remains determined.
"Our intention is to continue to raise money, even if it has to take us longer. We're committed to do whatever it takes to get it done."
For more information about Turf the Valley, visit: http://www.turfthevalley.com/