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Artificial turf to be monitored during fireworks

As the festivities begin today for the Fourth of July, Medford officials will be keeping a protective eye on their new artificial turf at sports fields at the U.S. Cellular Community Park at Lowry Lane.

The "Red, White and BOOM" fireworks display at the Harry & David Field, 2929 S. Pacific Highway, is about 500 yards away from the city's championship field, which was just completed at the end of May. The city park's parking lot off Lowry and the stadium grandstand over the soccer field will serve as an overflow area for spectators to watch the fireworks show, which will begin at about 9:45 p.m. Gates at the Harry & David Field open at 6:30 p.m., while the sports park lot doesn't open until 8 p.m.

Organizers of the fireworks show, which include The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County, Medford Youth Baseball Society and Red Robin Restaurant, say they are confident their fireworks won't stray onto the new artificial turf. They received city permission to hold the fireworks at that location.

But city officials fret that spectators might launch their own fireworks in the sports park parking lot, with the embers potentially falling onto the turf.

"It would melt the turf," said Brian Sjothun, city parks and recreation director. "That is not good."

Under Medford ordinance, setting off fireworks in city parks, including parking lots, the Bear Creek Greenway and all public school grounds, is prohibited. The penalty for violation of the ordinance is up to $150.

During the fireworks display, alcohol and pets also are forbidden in the sports park grandstand and parking lot.

City officials are trying to spread the word in advance that fireworks are not allowed at the sports park to try to prevent any mishaps, but with an average of 2,500 people turning out each year for the fireworks display, enforcement could be problematic.

City recreation employees and police will be patrolling the area to try and ensure the rules are followed, Sjothun said. All the gates to the fields and parking lots, except the one off Lowry, will be locked. However, the fields still would not be invulnerable to rocket-type fireworks, Sjothun said.

The last six fields installed with the lead-free artificial turf, which includes the multi-purpose championship field, cost a total of $2.6 million, according to Medford City Council minutes.

It's unclear how much it would cost to patch up a burn spot on the turf, Sjothun said.

The fields at the sports park so far have been a good revenue source for the city. All of them already are booked solid this summer, Sjothun said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.