BERNARDS TWP., NJ _ The boys and girls of summer are instead heading out to play baseball in September 2020, the Ridge Baseball Club told township officials last week _ but unfortunately, at a time of year when the days are getting shorter instead of longer.

Responding to a written request from the Ridge Baseball Club, the Bernards Township Committee gave the kids' league preliminary approval to turn on the lights for night games between Sept. 1 and Nov. 15 at the Ridge Baseball Complex off Valley Road. The RBC leases the complex from Bernards Township.

However, the approval for night lighting during the fall months is being granted for 2020 only, a year in which concerns about spreading COVID-19 have turned "normal" life upside-down.

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"In March, we were moving full speed ahead," Kevin Larner, executive vice president for the RBC, told the Township Committee on Aug. 25. Then, as with so many other activities involving public gatherings, "We had to shut down."

Larner said that baseball is a spring and summer activity, and "Fall is new to us." But he said that there has been much interest in the program. The RBC has devised a COVID safety reopening plan, he said, adding that parents have recognized that baseball is a relatively socially distanced sport.

As it stands now, the lease with the township expressly permits use of the lights between April 24 to Aug. 8, according to a written request from the RBC. However, the RBC games were not being held at that time, Larner noted.

Township Committee members were in agreement for turning on the lights, but wanted to know if neighboring residents had been informed about the RBC's plans. "Have you consulted with the neighbors who might be affected?" asked Township Committeewoman Joan Harris.

Larner said the RBC had not contacted neighbors, but noted that the lights had not been turned on for spring and summer games. However, he agreed that neighbors could be told about the lighting.

Township officials urged the public to attend the next Township Committee meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15, if they wish to comment further on night lighting at the complex. A resolution to memorialize the approval for fall lighting in 2020 will be presented at that meeting, according to Township Clerk Rhonda Pisano. 

Although the Township Committee gave unanimous approval to the fall lighting for this year, Township Committeeman John Carpenter was among those who affirmed that the okay was being given on a one-year basis only. "Fall use on a regular basis is not something I would be in favor of."

Larner assured the committee that the request was for one time only.

One of the neighbors, Gerard Elson of Wedgewood Drive, said he was not opposed to the proposed night lighting, but said it has been a continuing concern of neighbors is that the RBC is "about tournaments" that bring in crowds of out of towners. Looking at the long-term view, Elson noted there is no buffer between homes, lights and some other parts of the complex.

Township Committeewoman Janice Fields suggested that the township look again at installing buffers between the neighborhood and areas such as batting cages.

The RBC's request for lighting specified that the times when lights could be turned on will be consistent with the terms of the lease with the township.  "We will turn off the lights at the following times:

●  Sundays – no later than 9 p.m.

●  Fridays and Saturdays – no later than 10 p.m.

●  Mondays through Thursdays when school is in session – no later than 9 p.m.

●  Mondays through Thursdays when school is not in session – no later than 10 p.m.