Community members have raised environmental concerns about the University of Wisconsin’s Recreational Sport’s proposed development in University Bay.

Rec Sport’s current proposal involves installing artificial turf and fencing around the fields as well as additional lighting fixtures. The University Bay developments are not a part of the referendum that students will vote on in early March but are part of the Master Plan.

Carol Barford, a scientist and Shorewood Hills Village resident, said some of the biggest environmental concerns include the increase in noise, increase in traffic, increase in lights and the issues of flooding because it is a low-lying area.

“Artificial turf is not made to be biodegradable, I mean, that’s the point of it,” Barford said. “So there are compounds in it that prevent biological decay, and whether those compounds are people friendly or place friendly is not clear.”

Barford said because the fields are in a low-lying area, it often floods. With the presence of artificial turf, synthetic compounds could flow into Lake Mendota, she added.

Barford said Shorewood Hills residents also have concerns about the proposed fencing around the fields.

“People here enjoy the view, fencing would really change that in a way that nobody is desiring,” she said. “Nobody wants to look out at a bunch of fields enclosed by fences. It would change not only the view, but the access, and the dynamics of the wildlife that is there.”

Rec Sports Director John Horn said the University Bay project has not yet been approved and they plan on doing an environmental impact assessment for the project, as well as the other proposed projects in the Master Plan.

Horn said because students did not place the University Bay Fields as a priority part of the Master Plan, it was not put on the referendum and will not be funded by students.

“We have developed an idea only, there has not been a formal design for the plan,” Horn said. “Before we ever do anything out there, if we ever do anything, we would definitely complete an environmental impact assessment.”

He said Rec Sports plans on cooperating with the surrounding communities to address the environmental concerns. 

Karl Frantz, Shorewood Hills Village administrator, said the village and the university have generally been good neighbors and the village has approved quite a few projects that are inside of the village, including the UW Hospital.

“This is in a lot of ways a lot more significant than any of those other projects in terms of the impact it will have on the adjacent neighborhood,” Frantz said.

Frantz said the university should focus on changing the way the land is used instead of proposing these large changes. He said the land is serving a purpose the way it is, and UW should pay attention to it in its current state to make improvements on the soil.

Frantz said he was surprised UW has not yet made changes to the plans after hearing the community’s concerns, since they were expressed early on. UW is waiting to address the concerns until it receives the environmental impact assessment, he said.