Middlebush Park Tree Clearing Irks Some Environmental Commissioners

Gauguain Way

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

The extent to which trees were cleared at Middlebush Park sparked some comments from two Environmental Commission members at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Commission vice-chair Arnold Schmidt and member David Triggs voiced some concern over the number of trees that were cleared for the park, and over the lack of a buffer between the park and nearby residents.

“It looks like they literally dropped a bomb there,” Triggs said about the tree clearing. “It’s been clear-cut.”

He added that the area also “looks like they just dropped tons of dirt there.”

“They cut down trees all the way to the homes,” Triggs said.

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.

And as it stands, there’s no barrier between the homes and the park’s playing fields.

Schmidt said that “if you’re standing on DeMott Lane and looking in, you can see clear to their homes.”

Trigs noted that representatives of the state Department of Environmental Protection were at he site, “and had no problem with what they saw.”

Township Councilman Ted Chase (Ward 1) said that he’d made mention at the Nov. 26 council meeting of some dissatisfaction with the tree clearing.

At that meeting, township manager Bob Vornlocker said that all the areas in which trees were cut were in approved plans, and that new trees are being planted now to help shield area homeowners from the park.

Several area residents appeared at the council’s Oct. 22 meeting to air their gripes with the new park.

The trees are being planted on a berm that was built to help buffer the residents from the sights and noises of the park, but, Triggs said at the environmental commission meeting, those trees will take many years before they provide any kind of shield.

“They’re planting little saplings,” he said. “They’re going to take 30 years to grow into anything.”

“I don’t think they had to do it that way,” Triggs said of the project. “I think the town could have been a little more concerned about the residents there.”

The residents “are really going to complain when the basketball courts go in,” Schmidt said.

Triggs said that he is “all for active recreation, but I don’t think it was necessary to cut down all those trees.”

He said that the plans he recalled seeing did not include that much cleared space.

“All it takes is one guy on a bulldozer, and it’s gone,” Chase said.

“That’s not the way I recall it was presented at (the Open Space Committee meetings),” Schmidt said. “It sounded like there was going to be some kind of a visual barrier.”

“That’s what the Planning Board thought, too,” said commissioner Cecile MacIvor.

“Those plans changed many times over the last three or four years,” Schmidt said.

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