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Proposed ‘Pocket Park’ To Have Public Hearing

A public hearing will be conducted in January to get residents’ input on changing the use of a 1-acre parcel of land at New Brunswick Road and Willow Avenue to create a park.

Township residents will have the chance in January to give their opinions on a proposed “pocket park” at New Brunswick Road and Willow Avenue.

The Township Council at its November 10 meeting decided to hold a special Council meeting on the second Tuesday in January 2021 to give residents an opportunity to say how they feel about changing the use of the property.

The park is targeted for about an acre of the 24.63 acres of Green Acres open space the township owns at that corner.

The land’s current Green Acres-approved use is for passive recreation. Creating the park would require that part of the land’s use change to active recreation, necessitating the public hearing.

The idea for the park has been kicking around for more than a year, when Township Councilman Will Galtieri (D-Ward 2) first proposed it.

Galtieri’s idea was for a “grandparents’ park,” which could include amenities such as a play area, trails, and a dog watering station.

Galtieri said at the November 10 Council meeting that the park would be sited on the part of the property “that’s already been naturally cleared, with possibly some exceptions there. There might be one or two trees that are still outstanding.”

Galtieri said teh park could be built in two phases if finances become an issue, with walking paths being built first, and the play area at a later date.

Galtieri said the public hearing is not meant to signal that the park will definitely be built.

“This is not to say that it’s 100 percent, this is to give us the opportunity to consider and hear what the public feels about something being put in there,” he said.

A sign will be erected on the site explaining what the use change entails, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker said. He said there will also be a public comment period of two weeks after the public hearing.

“When you see a sign go up, it’s the notice for what’s actually being designed and proposed for the space,” Galtieri said. “It’s not a developer coming in, or the township coming in and knocking down all the trees.”

The idea has already generated opposition in some quarters.

A Facebook group called “The Tranquility Protection Alliance of Franklin Township” has created a petition opposing teh plan on Change.org.

“Help us save the trees and the critters of the woods – the birds (such as Great Horned Owl), rabbits, squirrels, turtles (such as Box Turtle), deer and many more” the group’s November 17 Facebook post reads. “How many more endangered species will we lose in Franklin if our Town Council relentlessly and systematically bulldozes over every last vestige of their natural pristine habitats?”

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