LIVINGSTON, NJ — The Madonna Drive parking lot in Livingston will be closed to both students and the public for the next two weeks as construction continues on the site for the new Madonna Field.

According to Township Manager Michele Meade, Livingston High School Principal Mark Stern and Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner supported the idea to close the lot after it was determined that a “chipper operation” could potentially be unsafe for students and other persons who might park in the area.

“The issue that we have with regard to the construction of the field is that the access to the construction site cannot come from the church, it has to come from the street,” Meade said at a council meeting on Tuesday. “The chipping operation is what’s under way right now because we’re going through the clearing of the trees, so they’re occupying that corner of the site.”

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No work was done on Tuesday due to an early-morning get together that the Class of 2017 held in the lot before the first day of senior year. However, the chipper is massive, according to Meade, spraying chips “far and wide” and making it unsafe to park in the area during the two-week process.  

Initially, the next stage of the construction would have taken up the entire parking lot. However, due to the inconvenience, Meade also announced on Tuesday that an alternative plan has been formalized this week in its place.

A new plan to develop a gravel road, which Meade said would only involve light tree removal, will serve a short-term purpose of allowing access to the construction site while permitting full use of the parking lot throughout the process when the lot reopens on Sept. 19. Once the Madonna Field project is complete, the gravel road will also allow access the township’s maintenance vehicles as well as accommodate emergency vehicles if needed in the future.

“This is a win-win, it’s probably a better solution than we had originally, and we’ll maintain the open parking lot after the two-week period is done” said Mead. “I think it works very well and will serve two purposes.”

The mayor and council members were enthusiastic about the solution and discussed a formal groundbreaking ceremony tentatively scheduled for Sept. 19 at 5 p.m.

Click HERE to read more about the Madonna Field Project, a project that has been in the works for several years and was made possible in 2016 thanks to a $1.3-million check from Saint Barnabas Medical Center.