NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - The first phase of the newly renovated Oakwood Park was opened for play on Saturday, April 1. A full schedule of teams lined up to play on the newest turf field in New Providence. The project has been many years in the making and the park itself has been a part of conversation within the Borough throughout the decade.
A previous plan to renovate the largest parkland in town using Union County Open Space Trust funds was defeated soundly back in 2010. “I can remember that day” said Councilman Jim Madden, “I thought at the time 'that’s it, this park will never get done'.”
This first phase of the project, conceived by the Borough Council back in 2015, is a reality and open for play. Youth soccer and lacrosse teams were the first residents to utilize the facility on a brisk grey spring day.
“All I have to say is wow," said Madden, who welled up with emotion seeing the years of planning come to fruition. As he arrived to the park at 8:30 a.m. to see six teams practicing at one time --with kids smiling -- it was an incredible site, he said.
"I drove into the parking lot and seeing the excited kids…it’s just taken so long to get all the stars to align to make this happen. It’s a great day for kids in New Providence.”
New Providence has grown accustomed to canceling games and practices in the early spring due to unusable grass fields. Coaches were pleased that after the rain drenched week they could find usable field time.
"We were able to move three games today that would have been canceled," said Adam Forbes from Chiefs Lacrosse. "This project was no small feat to get here -- but great to see it come together."
Dave Snyder from the New Providence Soccer Club (NPSC) was also happy to have access to usable fields during this rainy season. "It was great to see so many kids out exercising this weekend who otherwise would have been sitting at home with all the grass fields in town closed due to the rain this week," said Snyder.
The project when completed will have one FieldTurf field that can accommodate football, lacrosse, softball, baseball, and soccer for multiple competition levels on the ‘lower’ field. The ‘upper’ field area which is under construction, will be a new full sized baseball field. The field will follow the design of the Hillview Field complex with FieldTurf infield, and 10,000 square yards of new sod to be installed in the outfield. Subsequent phases will create two ice skating areas, as well as the renovation of “the shack” building and the lower area lavatory building.
Madden was joined at the soft opening of the park by fellow Councilmen Bob Robinson and Rob Munoz. Together they have been working on the Recreation Capital Improvement Committee within Borough Council for the past four years. Their first project at Hillview Field was reopened in late 2013 and won an award from the Society of Municipal Engineers for maximizing use of technology within a limited budget. In 2014, the renovation of Lincoln Field was completed, followed by the Basketball Courts at the New Providence Community Pool.
“We’ve worked long and hard trying to make the most impact while staying within budget," said Madden. "We continue to follow a process of obtaining input from residents, as well as the recreation program leaders and Community Activities Department.” He also acknowledged that the support of the Mayor and Council and prudent financial planning, as well as the work of Borough Administrator Doug Marvin, and Jim Johnston and the DPW crew, who have helped throughout with signs, pathways and fencing to protect our residents during the construction phases of the project.
Community input has been a critical part of the planning and review process, said Madden, citing the help of Dave Snyder, Mike Landsittel, Vig Menen, Adam Forbes, Ted Marczynski, Drew Vignali, Sal Nesto, Bernadette Cuccaro, Arlene Regan, and Brian Woodby in maximizing the design and uses of the facility. "These guys are incredible -- they supported everything we tried to do," said Madden. " [They provided] a lot of input as to design the field and layout."
With the soft opening of the Oakwood Turf field, Madden shared that they had the opportunity to pick up valuable feedback to address a couple of problems. He pointed out the need to install a gate to allow access to the middle of the field and to remove the guard rails that made parking difficult.
“We had to force all the traffic to the field via Rosener Place because of the open construction area and machinery," said Madden. "We also need our own residents not to all drive to the site. It will improve when we have Park Place access open and balance the traffic and parking from both access roads.”
Madden asked that all residents remain patient through the next phases of construction pointing out that today’s traffic and parking challenges will improve over the next few weeks.