WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s no secret that the residents want more field space, and now a report commissioned by the local government details many ways the town can accomplish that.
The Recreation Commission on Wednesday approved an extensive plan for its parks and fields that outlines $41.68 million in potential improvements to recreational facilities throughout the municipality, including short-term, mid-range and long-term goals. The specific timeline for implementation and funding details were not discussed.
Patrick D. Hoagland, principal of Brandstetter Carroll Inc., the firm that wrote the 521-page plan told the board a comparison of Westfield to 45 other communities found that the Union County town should have eight to nine recreational fields controlled by the municipality where it now has just three.
“The fields that you’ve got are terribly over used and just beat up,” said Hoagland, whose firm conducted extensive public feedback for the parks plan. “We’ve been hearing a lot of that from the residents.”
The lack of available field space and overuse of existing fields justifies the expense of artificial turf, he said. Plans for such fields are included in his report.
Click here to read the full parks and Parks and Recreation Master Plan
In November 2018, the Town Council had approved $99,500 for Brandstetter Carroll Inc. to create the plan.
Among the proposals are extensive recommendations for Tamaques Park, including turf field improvements, a dog park, the renovation of a restroom near tennis courts, a “nature playscape,” field lighting, trail and road resurfacing and the relocation of a basketball court. Listed in potential capital improvements for the park are also plans for an 18-hole disk golf course.
Proposed lighting is recommended for fields that are the furthest away from homes near to the park, Hoagland said.
The plan for Tamaques Parks, commission member Brad Rothenberg noted, marks a departure from plans previously presented.
“The Tamaques plan that you propose is not the same one that you proposed a couple of years ago,” Rothenberg said.
The report also includes plans for property at Edison Intermediate School.
“The space is large enough to offer more fields than are currently available,” the report says. “The condition of the fields also needs to be improved.”
The planning firm recommends the addition of “two full-sized artificial turf multipurpose rectangular turf fields with lights and scoreboards.”
Board of Education President Peggy Oster, who sits on Recreation Commission, noted that the fields under discussion are property of the school board.
“You’re presenting as if these fields are something that you can use, but you haven’t come to the Board of Education yet saying what your plan is for the property,” Oster said, following Hoagland’s presentation.
She noted plans in the works to bring full day kindergarten to the district schools, something that may necessitate the use of that land for another purpose.
“Will there be a need to build a school in the future?” Oster asked. “Those are things that the board will have to decide.”
The commission approved the plan with the stipulation that the any plans for Board of Education property have final approval of the school board.
While the commission approved the plan, it did not identify its top priorities within that plan, pending input of stakeholders, including the school board.
It was a decision two of the commission members, including its chairman, objected to.
“I think it’s very important that we take ownership of the plan,” said Chairman Gary Fox.
The draft plan now heads to the Town Council for further review, officials said. It is anticipated to be considered by the council in February before going to the Planning Board for inclusion in the towns master plan, which is a guide for overall development, officials said.
Jennifer Gilman, who was appointed to the commission following her unsuccessful November bid for a Town Council seat, noted that many members of the public do not realize the plan for fields at Edison School would require school board approval.
“This is a beautiful plan and it’s exciting, and there are so many wonderful things,” Gilman said. She added: “People may not know that it’s going to take some type of negotiation agreement with the Board of Education.”
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