Over the last two months, much has been made regarding Passaic County’s plans to install a synthetic turf field at Goffle Brook Park in Hawthorne. Regrettably, much of the media and public criticism are grounded upon inaccurate information. By providing some background on the project, I hope to shed some light on the county’s rationale for moving forward with the synthetic turf option.
The Passaic County Board of Chosen Freeholders continues to heavily invest in parks, recreation, and the rehabilitation of our historic sites. Access to parks and recreation keeps kids off the streets. It promotes healthy living. And participation on athletic teams nurtures development and growth in our young people. New Jersey, and specifically this portion of Passaic County, is lacking in athletic fields. A durable turf field provides a low maintenance resilient surface that can be continually used, regardless of weather conditions.
Opponents of the synthetic surface cite two arguments for advocating against this project. First, it is claimed that the installation of a synthetic turf is out of character with the historic nature of this Olmsted Brothers designed park. Second, adversaries of the proposed turf assert that Passaic County intends to monetize the new turf field by renting it to outside groups.
In the original Olmsted design, this section of Goffle Brook Park was labeled as a meadow and later converted to its current state as a multi-use athletic field. These changes did not prevent the park from being designated on the National Register of Historic Places. Consequently, the county’s proposal would not compromise the basis of the historic designation either. Any argument premised upon compromising the historic integrity of Goffle Brook Park by installing a synthetic field is baseless.
The New Jersey State Historic Preservation Office, the New Jersey Historic Sites Council, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection all agree with Passaic County that the historic integrity of Goffle Brook Park is not compromised by the installation of this synthetic field.
If opponents – including the Mayor and Council of Hawthorne – felt so strongly that this turf field was a detriment to the historic integrity of Goffle Brook Park, I am confused as to why they did not attend the public hearing on the application in front of the Historic Sites Council? Surely if they felt as though this turf field compromised Goffle Brook Park in such a profound manner at least one representative from the government would have attended to voice opposition.
Likewise, the permitting of the new turf field will not change whatsoever. This field, even in its current state of disrepair, is heavily used for soccer and other athletic events. The current permit fees in place are uniform across various athletic fields owned and operated by the county will not change because of this proposed improvement.
Most permits issued by the county for use of the four athletic fields at Goffle Brook Park are taken out by the Hawthorne Board of Education and the Hawthorne Boys and Girls Club. The county does not see that changing. It was even expressed to us that, because of a lack of athletic fields and scheduling constraints, installation of a turf field will be beneficial to the Hawthorne High School Athletic Department and allow for greater flexibility in scheduling games and practices.
We see this project as a win-win for the children of Passaic County.
The decision to install a synthetic turf field was not made on a whim. The director of Passaic County’s Parks and Recreation Department holds a bachelor of science in turfgrass science from Penn State University, one of the top turf grass management colleges in the United States. Any patron of the Preakness Valley Golf Course can see the fruits of his professional expertise in turf grass management. He concluded that, based upon a number of factors with respect to use and the ability to maintain natural grass, that it was not feasible to maintain a natural grass surface at this site.
The county is sensitive to reports and findings with respect to the use of rubber in-fill material on the synthetic turf. That is why we are requiring the use of a natural cork material that is not toxic and poses no environmental or health threat.
The real question that should be raised is why are certain individuals opposed to a project that provides so many benefits to the children of Passaic County? Especially when arguments in opposition to the project are so easily refuted.
I, unfortunately, suspect an ulterior motive for opposing this project must exist. I leave it to Passaic County residents to draw their own conclusion on what that ulterior motive might be.
Investment in the Passaic County Park System is not going to be thwarted by a small and vocal minority opinion based upon misinformation. While we encourage public input, decisions made by this Board will be based on facts, not untruths and innuendos.