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In Your Opinion: Pocket Parks Are Good For Franklin

By Arnold W. Schmidt.

I recently read an article, and subsequent comments online, about a lot of concerns regarding a proposed park in the New Brunswick Road/Willow Avenue area.  The 2012 park plan being discussed was 6 acres which would have meant clear-cutting many trees.

The new park plan is actually proposed to be on Willow Avenue across from Harrow Drive, about 200 feet from New Brunswick Road.  This plan calls for about 10 trees to be removed, many of which are already dead. Most of the other trees in the area currently being discussed have already been felled by recent storms. The current plan is for a park of about one acre with a play area for children, exercise equipment for adults, a natural path that will be integrated into the existing wooded area and a small parking area.  There will be no basketball courts, softball fields or dog park.  There will be a crosswalk at Harrow Drive across Willow to the park. It appears the Township Council plans to introduce the new design at a Council meeting in January.  

Pocket parks, like the one being considered for the Harrow Drive/Willow Avenue area, are the meat and potatoes of our Township parks program for the many neighborhoods in our very large, spread-out Township.  They increase our quality of life, providing access to nature and a healthy environment.  They serve families close to their homes, within walking distance.

Concerns have been expressed about the cost of this project.  The Township’s Open Space Trust Fund will be utilized so no additional dollars will come out of our pockets. Township staff is also researching state grants to help pay for the park. New trees will be planted in appropriate places as per the project’s final design. The cost of the trees and labor to plant them will come from the Township’s Shade Tree Trust Fund. This Fund contains money deposited by developers, as required by Township ordinance, to replace trees they have removed to accommodate their projects and there is no room to plant replacement trees. The Township’s Environmental Commission and the Shade Tree Committee will provide recommendations, upon review of the plans, about placement and what types of trees would be best for the park.

Before making up our minds, I believe it is best that we have all of the facts straight. Before anything is approved there will be a public hearing where we will receive updated information and we can provide our comments.  The hearing will be followed by a 45-day comment period. Instead of basing our opinions on an 8-year-old plan, I suggest we wait to evaluate the actual proposal.   

I am an appointed member of the Township’s Environmental Commission (20 years), Open Space Advisory Committee (14 years) and the Shade Tree Commission (15 years), but this letter is not meant to represent the positions or opinions of those entities.

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