Complaining about artificial turf is easy: It's expensive. It's not as environmenta lly sound as real grass. It's uncomfortable to walk and run on.

But as much as they'd like to grumble, residents and local officials in Silver Spring, MD, just can't seem to find anything bad to say about a new park in the middle of downtown. The one-acre lot is covered in a carpet of fake grass. Visitors' comments all seem to follow the same theme: "I want to hate it, but it's actually terrific!"

The relationship between municipalities and artificial grass has varied. Many cities pr ohibit homeowners from using fake turf. But it's become quite popular for playing fields in city parks because it's less costly to maintain. The Silver Spring project, which is more village green than soccer field, seems to represent a new use for the stuff.

Local officials decided to install the Fescue-Grade SoftLawn(TM) Synthetic Turf late this summer, when they demolished a parking lot in downtown Silver Spring. It's a temporary park; a pavilion and ice-skating rink will be built there next year, if funding is approved. But given the popularity of the synthetic lawn, the real hard part may be convincing local residents to give up the green.