Middlebush Park Sports Complex Angers Some Neighbors

Gauguain Way

Homes abutting the Middlebush Park sports complex, looking out from the “tot lot.”

The township’s efforts in shielding Gauguin Way residents from noise and other nuisances of Middlebush Park’s sports complex aren’t sitting well with at least one resident.

The 70-acre park, accessible off of DeMott Lane, is home to the township’s Pop Warner football program. With 300 players, Franklin’s Pop Warner program is considered to be the largest in Central New Jersey.

The complex, which started hosting Pop Warner football games in September, features two full-sized football fields, with bleachers and a press/announcer box.

The two fields also serve as soccer fields, and there’s a “tot lot” and a skateboard park there as well. That translates to some noisy periods, as well as people walking through the Gauguin Way yards to get to the park.

Those problems are being addressed, township manager Bob Vornlocker told the Township Council at its Oct. 22 meeting.

“Two homes on Gauguin Way have no screening against the park,” Vornlocker said. He said the plan is to plant Cyprus Cedar and Spruce trees on the berm that separates the park property from the homes.

“Public works will plant two rows, 40 to 50 trees in each row, staggering them,” he said. “That will block the park from the view of the houses.”

“There’s a four-foot berm, and the trees will be from five- to eight-feet high,” he said.

“That should completely screen the back of those properties from the park,” Vornlocker said.

He said the trees should be planted by the first week of November, “as long as we can still get the trees.”

As to the problem of people walking through yards to get to the park, Vornlocker said that a fence will be installed to block access to the park.

But at least one affected property owner, Brian Crawford, was not pleased.

“That is not enough,” he told the council.

“I came to the council last year, and I was promised there would be a buffer,” he said.

Crawford called the creation of the park near his home “a war on the environment by the township in my backyard. One hundred years’ of vegetation was destroyed.”

“What about the headlights shining in my windows at all hours of the night?” he asked.

For the most part, council members said they would try to help Crawford and his neighbor.

“I have great compassion for the residents of Charles Street and Gauguin Way over this sports complex put i their backyards,” Deputy Mayor Roz Sherman (Ward 2) said. “Any reasonable request to provide relief to the residents near that park should be taken o heart and analyzed.”

“It is only right that we make sure that their quality of life is not being destroyed to take care of the needs of children,” Sherman said. “We certainly can’t put it back to the way it was, but we will do what we can do.”

“Resident have priority over new things being built,” Mayor Brian Levine said. “If buffering or anything else” can mitigate the problem, “we’ve got to look into this.”

But Councilman Carl R.A. Wright (Ward 4) took issue with the complaints.

The decision to create the sports complex at the park “wasn’t in secret,” he said.

Residents were surveyed to find out what they wanted there, Wright said.

“I know people had an opportunity to come and talk about it,” he said.

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