NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — Dozens of North Caldwell residents attended the regular mayor and council meeting on Tuesday to express their concerns regarding the condition of the athletic fields in town—a discussion that has been ongoing since the summer.
During a July meeting, a group of local residents revealed the results of a 24-question survey distributed with the intention of determining North Caldwell residents’ priorities for improving the borough’s recreational fields. Of the 334 people that participated, more than 73 percent of responders said that they would contribute time and money toward this initiative.
With spring sports quickly approaching, many parents and coaches told Mayor Joseph Alessi and members of the council that they are concerned for the safety of the many children who play and practice on these fields following various minor injuries during sporting events.
Coaches have reported unsafe conditions at Firemen’s Field, Magnuson Field and Mountain Ave Field, including rocks in the outfield, sprinkler heads exposed on the football field and large holes in the soccer fields.
“When they redid Firemen’s Field last year, it seems like all they did was add new clay over top of the old clay,” one coach said. “Last year, I had two kids get hit in the face with a ball because they expected the ball to go down but instead it bounced up and hit them right in the face.”
He also reported many other types of injuries sustained by players last season. As players were sliding into the bases, for instance, many sustained cuts and scratches from rocks in the outfield.
As spring approaches, residents are demanding that the council help them come up with a plan to fix these issues as well as many other upgrades that are needed.
“We want to be proud of our town and we want to be proud of our fields,” said one resident. “People from all over are coming to our fields for sporting events and they see that our fields are substandard.”
However, Alessi explained that there are many factors to consider. Some improvements would require a tax raise for residents, according to Alessi, which is causing hesitation among council members. Although taxes may only be raised a few hundred dollars, this could be a financial burden to some families, he said.
Many of the steps required for a large project such as this could take up to a year to complete.
Although no specific plans or starting dates have been made to upgrade the fields, the council approved a resolution to approve the funding for engineering services for the design of a synthetic turf athletic field. The council said the department of public works (DPW) would also work on some of the minor field issues over the next few weeks.
Moving forward, the council will continue to discuss the best way to complete this project.