Over the last several months, the voices of many New Providence residents have been heard on the Oakwood Park question. Overwhelmingly, they are speaking out against the proposed sale of the park - at public hearings, in printed media, and in private meetings. Over and over, they are expressing frustration that repeated requests for a public vote have been ignored by the Borough Council. At this point, a lawsuit has been filed against the Borough with the goal of stopping the sale.
As of today, the sale of Oakwood Park is not a done deal. Residents who oppose the sale have been invited to submit comments to the Council, despite the fact that the public has been speaking out against the deal for months.
Now time is extremely limited. It is urgent that we all acknowledge how much we could lose if this sale goes through.
1. New Providence would give away its largest park - for good. The natural grass, which many residents enjoy, would be removed. We would lose an important place for fishing, enjoying the natural environment, young children playing in grass, and casual family recreation.
2. New Providence is a quiet, family-oriented town whose residents share a strong sense of community. Erection of a multimillion dollar sports facility - with parking - to support county-wide events is completely unwanted and unnecessary. Neighbors are very concerned that the proposed renovation would damage the small-town feel we value. The park is smack in the middle of a neighborhood of families with young children. There would be increased foot and vehicular traffic, litter, and noise. Large-scale county athletic events are not wanted, and could seriously disrupt the peace and quiet of this small neighborhood. Many residents predict that crime in the area will increase, and that property values will decrease. This renovation is not for the benefit of New Providence: A large, turfed field owned by the county could host large, county-wide athletic events, and is for the benefit of groups throughout the county.
3. The contract is highly unfavorable to New Providence. Union County would be getting the land at an unbelievably low price. The County would have priority for scheduling and might charge usage fees for a park we now use freely. We would lose ownership and autonomy in making decisions regarding a park which, again, sits in the middle of our residential neighborhood. The County would certainly not prioritize our needs. Again, this turfed park would benefit outside athletic groups, not New Providence residents. The "reverter" clause in the contract is all but useless, since we could not afford to buy back the park if the deal proves bad for the town. 4.
Serious concerns about the safety of synthetic turf are being ignored. Turf, which would cover almost all of the park, is associated with numerous health hazards. These include a high risk of heatstroke for kids playing on the fields, turf-related injuries, and breeding dangerous "super-germs" such as MRSA. The antiseptic cleansers which must be used on turf increase the danger over the long run by encouraging development of more powerful, resistant strains of bacteria. Turf also contributes to global warming - is that what we want? Most frightening, there may be a risk of later development of cancer for the children who play on it. Some major American cities have banned the use of turf. Prominent scientists and physicians have called for a ban on the installation of new artificial turf fields until more studies can be done.
There is very little time so please let your voices be heard. Lets advocate for the New Providence we all enjoy!