WESTFIELD, NJ — Residents stressed the need for new turf fields at the second master plan update workshop Wednesday night, where the town collected input to shape the future of Westfield’s parks and land use.
Westfield Soccer Association members were the largest advocates in favor of installing new turf fields, with dozens of residents showing up to the Town Hall Community Room donning Westfield Soccer sweatshirts.
Soccer association members said a shortage of turf fields have been a problem for years, an issue exacerbated by the Kehler field renovations, which are anticipated to close the field through July 31. Some members worried about the program, which serves around 2,400 athletes, being forced to downsize due to a lack of field space.
“At some point, our programs, not only soccer, are going to have to reduce what they have to offer,” said Nuno Rodrigues, the vice president of administration for the Westfield Soccer Association, who attended the workshop. “Instead of having around 405 5- and 10-year-olds in the fall, we may only be able to service 100. Where are the other 300 going to go?”
Others in the soccer community also want to stay in Westfield. “I don't want to play my home games in Clark, Garwood or Edison,” said Nina Rodrigues, Nuno’s 10-year-old daughter, who is a soccer player. “I want to play them in Westfield.”
Residents voted with stickers on what park features and programs they valued most, with “multipurpose fields” and “athletics” garnering the most stickers. Other topics, though, like “natural areas” and “trails” also gained substantial votes. Some residents opposed new turf fields, citing environmental concerns.
“We don't need anymore turf,” said Jill Brown, who has lived in Westfield for 15 years. “Turf is not ground. It’s not going to soak in the water. It doesn't grow trees. It doesn't grow flowers. There’s going be no birds.”
“We need to save what we have,” Brown added.
Representatives from Brandstetter Carrol Inc., the firm hired to oversee the Parks and Recreation Plan, answered residents questions and concerns. One representative explained how a pragmatic approach is crafted from the public’s suggestions.
“We've seen sights where people say they want 20 soccer fields out there, but by the time parking and fields and everything else [is done] you can get three,” said Patrick Hoagland, the project manager of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. “You need to see what's realistic as well.”
Hoagland said that Parks Master Plan will analyze statistical data from different parts of the community, ensuring that everyone has an equal say and no group disproportionality influences the plan’s final outcome.
“We listen to all of the different forms of public engagement. We know this isn’t statistical at all,” he said in reference to the turnout from the workshop. “We take all this and put it together then we have to use our professional expertise to see what works for the community and what doesn't.”
To give your input on Westfield’s future, attend the third Master Plan meeting on April 24, at Edison Intermediate School from 7 – 9 p.m. Surveys can also be filled out online at https://publicinput.com/WestfieldMP and https://publicinput.com/WestfieldParks for the Parks Plan.
Daniel Han is a Westfield High School senior participating in a journalism program with TAPinto Westfield.
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