MAPLEWOOD, NJ - On Thursday evening, July 21, a meeting was held at the Hilton Branch of the Maplewood Library to update community members about the ideas the Recreation Committee has regarding potential upgrades and re-uses to the current tennis courts.

Maplewood Township Committee Member Greg Lembrich, who is the Township Committee liaison to the Recreation Committee, led the discussion regarding potential uses for the existing courts, which could include converting the current tennis courts into two basketball courts, or converting part of the tennis courts into one basketball court.

Both Lembrich and Lara Tomlin, a member of the Maplewood Recreation Advisory Committee, explained that this is early in the planning process, and that it is likely that actual work on the courts would begin in 2017. Tomlin displayed a sketch that showed how two basketball courts could replace the three tennis courts, which is one of the options being discussed.

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In addition to Lembrich and several other committee members, the meeting was attended by two members of the Maplewood Police Department, Lt. Alfred Sally and Sgt. Joe Guglielmo, David Berry, Director of Youth Engagement and Activities at the West Essex YMCA, and Melissa Mancuso, Interim Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and members of the community.

Community members were able to ask questions and share concerns and suggestions on how best to proceed in the revitalization of the courts in Maplecrest Park.

Some concerns were expressed about potential noise and foul language, which local resident Paul Surovell referred to as “the John McEnroe effect." Walter Feld, who resides on Oakview Ave., expressed concern there would be noise at late hours.

The police officers who work the 2 p.m. to midnight shift stated that they believed that language and behavior would not be a major issue. There were similar concerns about the skate park, but according to police, the area goes quiet with the dusk closure of the park, and it is very rare that anyone is in the park after the stated closing time. They do not foresee any negative outcomes to updating the tennis courts and installing a basketball court.

During the meeting, the basketball courts at Memorial Park were also discussed, and a request made for the lights be re-activated there. The police officers present at the meeting agreed this would impose no issues and it was agreed to use the lights for the same hours there as at the tennis courts in Memorial Park.

The consensus from the residents at the meeting was that they would like the tennis courts renovated, and for one of the courts to be converted to have a bounce back wall, or two. Residents would also like a basketball court to be built, but not on the site of the tennis courts, but near the parking lot on the Springfield Ave. side, which would have it placed away from the residential areas.

One of the questions asked was whether the basketball court and tennis courts could be reserved exclusively for use by South Orange and Maplewood residents. Lembrich explained that under the Green Acres law, all parks and their facilities must be open to the public with no restrictions regarding residency.

Lembrich stated that the meeting is one of the first steps in the planning process, and that funding would still need to be determined, and there will be at least one more public meeting before any final decisions are made.