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‘Family Friendly’ Catalpa Park Plan Readied For Public Debut

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker, second from left, describes the plans for Catalpa Park to the Open Space Advisory Committee.


A plan for a “family friendly” Catalpa Park – slightly different from what was approved last year – is making the rounds before relevant committees before its official public debut.

The plan is being shepherded by Township Manager Robert Vornlocker. Earlier this month he took the plan to the Advisory Recreation Council for its input, and on April 18, Vornlocker appeared before the Open Space Advisory Committee.

The plan includes a few more amenities than that which was approved nearly two years ago by the Township Council. Added to the park’s plan since that June 30, 2015 approval is a bocce ball court, two horseshoe pits and two cornhole pits. (Cornhole is a game where players take turns trying to throw a small bean bag through a hole at the end of an elevated board.)

The plan, which calls for the park to be built in two phases, retains the four tennis courts, two basketball courts and tot lot of the first phase and the two cricket pitches that comprise the second phase that were approved in 2015.

There will also be a picnic pavilion and bathrooms near the cricket pitches and tot lot area.

The park, bordered by Old Vliet and South Middlebush roads, is expected to cost between $3 million and $4 million. It’s spurred some severe negative reaction by residents of nearby housing developments, who objected to the anticipated noise of cricket matches.

Vornlocker said the bathroom facilities will have no electricity, and will only be available to organized groups. They will remain locked, he said.

“If there are cricket teams that reserve the field, or someone rents a picnic pavilion or has a function in the park, they would get keys to the bathrooms,” he said. “We’re really trying to drive home the point that this is a day use park only.”

The park will be serviced by a 500-gallon “sewer tank” which will be pumped out periodically, Vornlocker said. He said the cost to run a sewer main through the park would be about $250,000.

“We can pump out tanks a whole lot of times before we get to $250,000,” he said.

Township Councilman Ted Chase (D-Ward 1) asked if users of the basketball or tennis courts would be able to use the bathrooms. Vornlocker said they would not.

“The bathroom facilities are not open during the day to the general public,” he said. “Frankly, we don’t have the personnel. If we give the keys to organized groups, we don’t have the problems with vandalism.”

“When you leave a building open in a park that’s unsupervised, you leave yourself open” to problems, Vornlocker said.

Vornlocker said the idea is to make the park “family friendly.”

The tot lot, the picnic pavilion and the various game areas “give things for people to do if you were going to rent out the park for a family reunion, or a birthday party, where it’s not all geared to one age group,” he said.

Vornlocker said that one addition under consideration is returning to the plan a “para course” along an existing trail on the property. The original plan was to create a new trail on the park’s perimeter, and install the para course exercise equipment on that.

But resident pressure killed the trail and, by extension, the para course. Vornlocker said the recreation council and some residents asked that the para course portion of that idea be restored.

“We’ve begun to look at that,” he said.

An overhead power line that emanates from Old Vliet Road and services the house and barn of the family who farms the land – and who will remain when the park is built – will be moved underground,” Vornlocker said, and Old Vliet Road will be widened from 18 feet to 24 feet, Vornlocker said.

There’s also consideration of moving the driveway in the park further away from the house, which will require the construction of a new bridge over a stream, and state Department of Environmental Protection permits, Vornlocker said. He said different permits would be needed anyway to replace a bridge that’s located at the current driveway.

Committee chairman Randy Jones said that  the amenities sounded “wonderful,” but, he said, “it seems that if you wanted to have a pickup baseball game, there isn’t the space.”

“If you were having a family reunion and wanted to have a pickup softball game, this is not the park for you,” Vornlocker said. “You have to pick and choose what you want.”

The plan is to use synthetic turf for the cricket pitches, Vornlocker said, so they could be used for other sports when cricket is not being played.

Vornlocker said he anticipates having a public hearing on the plan in June, at which time the Township Council is expected to give it its final blessing. Final contracts would probably be awarded in October or November, he said.

He said construction would probably not start until early next Spring, but, if there is a mild winter, initial excavations could begin as early as January or February.

“There’s going to be a whole lot of Earth that will need to be moved” for the cricket pitches, he said. The area “needs to be leveled, and that’s going to take a lot of excavating.”

In April, the council awarded a $4,600 contract to a Parsippany firm to conduct a traffic study for the park.

 

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Copyright 2017 The Franklin Reporter & Advocate

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