Somerville Seeks Green Acres Funding for Improvements to Chambres Park

The nets are long gone and the basketball court playing surface is buckled and uneven. Credits: Rod Hirsch
A tarp covers the pool at Chambres Park. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Credits: Rod Hirsch
Grass has grown over the pitcher's rubber. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Weeds have obscured third base. Credits: Rod Hirsch
A Danger Sign at the nearby treatment plant alongside the Raritan River. Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ – A public hearing on a Green Acres application for improvements to Chambres Park will be held at Monday night’s Borough Council meeting, one of several items on a crowded agenda that includes a proclamation recognizing the success of the Somerville High School football team’s record-setting season and introduction of an ordinance to modify some of the borough’s parking rules and regulations.

Chambres/Southside Park has been closed and off limits for several years after a nearby treatment plant broke down, spewing sewage onto the playing fields alongside the Peter Brook, which flows into the nearby Raritan River.

The faulty valve system has since been repaired, enabling the plant alongside the Raritan River to handle the extra flow in the system, caused by floodwater runoff entering the sewer line,

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The equipment upgrade has stopped the backup of sewage on the property; several years of rainfall and flooding in the low-lying area of the borough has cleansed the area of any contaminants, according to Borough Councilman Jason Kraska, liason to the borough Recreation Commission.

The Somerset Raritan Valley Sewage Authority is designing an overflow treatment plant that will be built on the site of the existing plant, according to Kraska. The $18-20M facility will handle and treat the excess capacity generated by flood runoff during storms, providing a permanent solution.

The borough’s Department of Public Works continues to maintain the park, keeping the grass cut and removing litter; but the forced closure has taken its toll.

Kraska said the borough’s Recreation Department has committed to funding a portion of the planned upgrades from its trust account, but has not determined the amount, depending on the outcome of the grant application.

Kraska said the borough is applying for a grant of $485,000 for repairs and upgrades. Following the public hearing at Monday night’s meeting, the Borough Council is expected to formalize the application and authorize Mayor Brian Gallagher to sign the paperwork for submission to the state Department of Environmental Protection in Trenton, which administers the grant program.

“We’re working with other organizations to get more funding so that we don’t have to do it on the backs of the taxpayers,” Kraska said.

The baseball/softball field, the former home field of the Somerville High School Pioneers, is overgrown. The bases and the rubber on the pitcher’s mound are almost obscured by weeds. So, too, are some lost golf balls in the outfield.

The swimming pool is covered securely with a tarp covered by a scattering of leaves.

The pavilion alongside the pool and nearby basketball court is covered with silt from the overflow of the Peter Brook, and the nets are long gone.

In addition to restoring the ball field and basketball court, Kraska said other uses being suggested are a soccer field, a dog park and modernized pool with an adjacent Splash Park similar to the one at the Park Avenue park which opened last summer.

“There’s a lot of talk around town about a dog park,” he said.

The borough Recreation Commission will compile residents’ suggestions and put together a recommendation for the borough council. He said more public input will be sought before any final plan is adopted.

 “I can’t make promises as to what will be done, but this once thriving park and the residents of Somerville deserve to have this facility cleaned up and brought back,” he said.

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