WEST ORANGE, NJ - The Turtle Back Rock area of South Mountain Reservation, located in West Orange, is getting an upgrade to its soccer and baseball/softball field. These upgrades will provide additional athletic fields to meet the needs of area youth recreation programs as well as the community.
“Local recreation programs have a vital role in the development of our youth, teaching teamwork and sportsmanship, promoting physical fitness and helping to develop socialization skills. However, as these programs become more popular they place greater demands on the playing fields that are available. Sports activities were already being played at Turtle Back Rock, so it made sense to upgrade the fields to formalize the play areas and provide opportunities for our youth,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo. “When Mayor Parisi and township approached us about the field, we did not hesitate to help them. This project is an example of how the County and municipalities can work together to improve the quality of life for our residents,” he added.
“Every town is experiencing the same problem. We don’t have enough fields,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said. “It’s wonderful that the county is able to help.”
Earlier this year, Mayor Robert Parisi approached DiVicenzo to discuss upgrading the meadow and ballfield at the Turtle Back Rock picnic area off Walker Road. The West Orange Town Council formalized the request in a resolution that stated: “The popularity of the recreation programs offered by the Township’s Recreation Department, Mountain Top League, and West Orange Police Athletic League is steadily increasing, and expanding enrollment in soccer and baseball/softball programs has placed a burden on existing athletic fields in the Township” and “that the Mayor and Township Council are formally requesting that the County assist in making improvements to the Turtle Back Open Space such that the Turtle Back Open Space can be utilized for youth soccer and baseball/softball programs.”
“This is a great use of existing facilities and it’s great that we are partnering with the county to get it done. We wanted to grow our recreation programs and needed additional fields, and DiVincenzo stepped up to move this project forward,” said Parisi.
“This is a tremendous opportunity for West Orange and the Mountain Top League to have access to more fields. As a community, we appreciate all the help that the County is giving to us to create more programs for our children,” said Mountain Top League President Brad Palent, who was was accompanied to the event by Mountain Top League Vice President Pete Scalora, Secretary/Treasurer Anne-Sophie Whitehead, and Trustees Pete Pannucci, Rich Mair and Louis Mignone.
Improvements will include the upgrade of the existing field and meadow; the Little League baseball field will receive a complete upgrade; and a new youth soccer field will be developed. The baseball field will have new fencing installed as well as a back stop, infield clay surface, player benches and bleachers for spectators. The soccer field will have portable goals, netting and corner flags. The access roadway from Walker Road to the fields will be milled and repaved.
The field improvements were designed by the Essex County Department of Public Works. Sita Construction was awarded the contract for $236,487 after public bidding to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works will work with Sita Construction to facilitate the upgrade. The project will be funded by the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, and is expected to be in the spring of 2014.
Former West Orange Councilman Sal Anderton also supports the field upgrades. “We can’t grow more land, so without additional field space we can’t offer new recreation programs for our youth. Partnering with the county to upgrade existing resources is a wise decision that will benefit future generations.”