VERONA, NJ – Verona will introduce an Open Fields Program in May which will allow township residents to use Verona’s turf fields for recreational purposes, similar to the Open Gym program at the Verona Community Center.
The idea had been discussed at several Town Council meetings recently and the Council had encouraged Township Manager Matthew Cavallo to implement the program. Cavallo announced at the Council meeting on Monday that the Open Fields Program would begin after May 1 when the new Freedom Field located on White Rock Rd. opened.
“We are ready to launch the Open Fields option, but with a proposed start date that coincides with the opening of Freedom Field after May 1,” Cavallo explained. “We are going to hold off because if we launch Open Fields now it will undermine the purpose of the program. We’d have to cut some time from lacrosse and soccer in order to do it now, whereas nothing is scheduled for Freedom this season so once it’s open we should be able to schedule some open field time there.”
The Council also discussed parking and security concerns at the new fields. Mayor Kevin Ryan stated while he was happy at the progress of field construction, he had some concerns regarding the safety of the bleachers and the traffic issues that parking may create when the facility is fully operational.
“I was happy to see how much progress was made on the upper field, but one thing that disturbed me is the bleachers on that field are very steep and very high. I really want to see access to those bleachers denied when there isn’t a formal event going on. I’d like them to be gated,” Ryan said.
Township Engineer Jim Helb agreed with the mayor’s concerns and said it was something they were taking into consideration, along with installing security cameras to protect the fields from vandalism as well as ensure safety to those using the field and bleachers.
Ryan also brought up concerns regarding parking, noting that with three fields and the Community Center sharing parking, the area will get very crowded very quickly. Helb said they have identified approximately 390 parking spaces for people to use near the fields, acknowledging that not all of the spots are going to be convenient and that some walking on the part of residents will be necessary. There will also be the option of parking on the East side of White Rock Rd.
“Scheduling is critical and cooperation with the residents and the police department will go a long way,” Helb added. “It’s a great facility but parking is going to be difficult. We have seating for 500 people. It was a choice – to we provide the facility or do we provide parking.”
Ryan expressed his concern that parking on White Rock Rd. would not necessarily be the best solution. He suggested it would be prudent to reach out to the management of the Highlands on Hilltop complex at the top of White Rock Road so they can keep their residents informed of what the plans are on event days.