SPRINGFIELD, NJ — In a departure from the normal run of events, members of the Springfield community attended last night's township committee workshop meeting, for a new format that allowed them to voice their opinions on a current subject.
As part of a change to the format of the meetings, the official business at the beginning was shortened, to allow for public discussion. Each month, a different topic will be discussed. This month's dialogue focused on the trees at Ruby Field.
Since this past August, when news of the trees potentially being taken down spread, the town has become divided into two distinct camps; people who support taking the trees down, and those who would oppose the measure. Both sides were at the meeting last night.
Aly Miller, a member of the Springfield Environmental Commission and Green Team was in attendance to discuss the trees at Ruby Field. Speaking with TAPinto Springfield, Miller said that she spoke in favor of taking a conservationist's view of the situation.
"My recommendation to the township was to have the trees evaluated in the Spring to know the general health of the trees, and to pinpoint which ones are worth treating for the ash borer beetle and which are worth salvaging instead of just taking down all the ash trees," Miller said "The ones that are super healthy and worth trying to save we should save."
Miller explained that the root systems of the trees absorb a lot of water, and Springfield sits in a flood zone, so preserving as many trees as possible should be a township priority. Miller also addressed the pin oak at the center of the discussion. She said that in her opinion, the tree should stay, as the environment takes priority for her over sports.
While she did think the time was constructive, Miller also said that she was looking for a bit more time to speak on the topic.
"I got cut off," Miller said. "I would have liked to have continued to talk about replanting trees for the ones they do take down, because each person was only allowed two minutes. So I didn't quite get to say everything I'd like to say, but I got a good portion of it in."
On the other side of the discussion, Will Texiera spoke in favor of the removal of trees at the field. Texiera was among a group of baseball parents and fans in favor of action on the tree issue. He has two sons on the Jonathan Dayton Baseball team, which uses the field and said in his view, the trees pose a safety risk.
"Safety of the players is the issue," Texiera said. "Specifically for the outfielders. The tree does not only cause injury itself, but the tree branches have come into play, where a ball has flew [sic] into the leaves and changed direction.
I've seen that a few times. I was present when one player last year in practice stepped on a branch and sprained his ankle. So it's not only the tree itself...it's also the branches causing the balls to change direction and also the roots of the tree coming into play as well."
As for the procedure of the meeting and the new format, Texiera felt it was an even opportunity for everyone to speak on the matter.
"It seemed like they gave everybody a fair opportunity to give their side of the story, their opinion on the matter," Texiera said.
For Mayor Chris Capodice, who presided over the meeting last night, the meeting was a success.
"I think it was successful, due in large part to the amount of residents who came to share their input on a topic that's relevant to them," Capodice said. "And it's refreshing for the township committee to see the meeting room that filled, and I hope that it would be that full every month on a regular basis."
He also said that while there were some tweaks he would be making to the process of the workshop meeting, overall he was happy with its direction.
"There's no such thing as a perfect process," Capodice said. "Things are naturally made to be tweaked, as was seen tonight based on residents input. The meetings are made and designed to be a collaborative process in an effort to be more transparent. And I think for our first meeting, it went exceptionally well."