Like so many of you, I’ve spent many hours on our fields as a coach and a cheering dad. And in traveling with my son to other Towns for baseball, the difference in the condition of Westfield’s fields could not be more stark.
For at least a decade we’ve been living with the effects of an ad hoc and reactive approach to stewarding Westfield’s nine public parks & fields. In the absence of a long-term vision and comprehensive plan, we haven’t kept up with the growing needs of our community.
My wife and I bought our house 20 years ago because it was across the street from Tamaques Park. In 2017, a $6.8 million Tamaques turf field project was being planned which would have permanently altered one of Westfield’s most treasured public parks. Most alarming, this plan was proposed without any broad community input, and certainly none from the Tamaques neighbors.
My family never heard from our Ward 4 Councilman alerting us to the Recreation Commission’s proposal. If he had, I would’ve asked the following questions about the 2017 Tamaques field proposal:
- Does it accommodate growth projections for youth sports, considering it only turfs an existing field without adding capacity?
- Is there a proposed parking solution, or will it exacerbate an already absurd parking problem?
- Where’s the traffic study ensuring this proposal doesn’t increase bicycle and pedestrian safety issues?
- What, if any, field options and locations were otherwise considered?
I don’t believe I would’ve received the answers because the due diligence wasn’t done. The Tamaques field proposal was an example of a hurried ‘fix’, instead of the right solution.
There’s no question—we need to couple protecting the natural spaces that make Westfield special with the pressing need for fields that make our community proud. It's doable, and Mayor Brindle has taken the first critical step by initiating a Westfield’s first ever Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan, and asking for our input.
And we responded! With 40,000 votes on the public survey, and huge attendance at the public workshops, the community is finally part of the process.
This comprehensive plan will establish a long-term strategic vision intended to preserve our natural spaces while finally delivering modern recreation facilities, athletic fields, bicycle paths, walking trails, and recreation programs for all residents of all ages and abilities. And Tamaques Park will be central to this plan.
Whether it's our kids' flag football games, cycling with friends, or pushing a stroller around the park, Tamaques brings us together in so many ways. I look forward to receiving the Strategic Plan recommendations knowing that whatever solutions are proposed, they were driven by our friends and neighbors. As your Ward 4 Councilman, I will ensure our community is always at the forefront of not only identifying our challenges, but being a part of the solutions.
I look forward to earning your vote on Election Day Nov. 5. Or, Early In Person at the Union County Clerk’s Office on 300 North Ave. East in Westfield which is now open!