MADISON, NJ – More than 100 residents, students, council members and administrators turned out for the first green forum discussion at Drew University’s student center on Thursdsay.
Following welcoming comments by Mayor Robert Conley, Mike Kopas of Drew University and Chairman of the Shade Tree Management Board and Melissa Honohan, Chair of the Open Space, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, the crowd broke into various braintstorming groups.
Topics focused on Greening Homes and Businesses and Getting Around Madison. Among the questions were: What matters to you most? What is the borough’s role and what is your role?
“Water is very important,” one resident said. “It’s worse to be without water than without electricity. I worry about a town where water is so cheap.” One suggestion is to provide an incentive for using less water, rather than raising the rates and charging more.
Another person said that 50 percent of energy goes into homes, so that making them more efficient is key. She said the borough should have ordinances for energy efficient construction.
Resident Charles Van Kirk said he had replaced the windows in his 60-year-old home and reaped “a big refund" or "a meter adjustment.”
Sustainable Madison Advisory Committee Chair Betsy Uhlman noted there was considerable agreement on the importance of education. This affects recycling, when people often don’t know the dates or the proper containers and labels. Community composting was another element that was emphasized.
Madison High School Student Ciara Fagan said she serves on a New Jersey High School Environmental Coalition and encouraged solar panels, such as those used at the Mennan Arena. Another idea would be to show films and videos, especially involving bottled water and getting back to tap water.
One person asked about the downtown commercial establishments, which use private vendors for trash removal. Councilman Ben Wolkowitz said he would look into their procedures for collection and recycling.
In terms of getting around Madison, major issues were safety concerns, traffic calming and problem streets. Ride sharing was suggested, as well as creating pedestrian zones in the downtown, similar to European plazas.
“No one knows where the parks are, their names, or what to do there,” one person said. There was some agreement that you need a reason to go to a park, such as providing benches, holding art exhibits or bocce days. One resident said she would like to see a waterfall or fountain. Another suggestion was to define safe walks from one park to another.
“Where do we go from here?” Uhlman concluded. “We need to keep the conversation going and set up task forces.” She said the evening’s information would be put on the borough’s website and there would definitely be follow-up to the myriad ideas generated from the enthusiastic participants.