Slimmed-Down Version Of Catalpa Park Plan Reviewed By Open Space Committee


The redesigned plan for Catalpa Park, displayed by Open Space Advisory Committee chairman Randy Jones at the Feb. 17 meeting.

A redesigned plan for Catalpa Park – about one-third smaller than the original, controversial plan – was reviewed Feb. 17 by the Open Space Advisory Committee.

The current proposed plan eliminates the two softball fields, three soccer fields, four basketball courts, a tot lot and bathroom that comprised the third phase of the original three-phase plan.

The plan now under consideration has only two phases, the first of which would include six tennis courts, a tot lot and a bathroom, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker told the committee.

The second phase includes one small and one large cricket pitch and a picnic pavilion, as well as parking, he said.

A new walking trail that had been proposed was also eliminated, with its replacement being an interconnecting trail to the township’s existing network, he said.

The area that was to have held the Phase 3 elements – which is closest to homes in the area – will now be open space, Vornlocker said.

“This certainly brings this more under the definition of a neighborhood park than what we originally proposed,” Vornlocker said.

The original plan for the more than 100-acre park, bordered by South Middlebush and Old Vliet roads, caused an uproar in the residential communities it bordered when it was introduced last year. A public hearing last summer was packed with angry residents, fearful that the township was planning a sports complex on the lines of Middlebush Park.

After constant lobbying by residents, the township decided to pull the plan and redesign a smaller version.

The new plan still has to be reviewed by the Recreation Advisory Committee and the Planning Board before a planned public hearing.

Vornlocker said the public hearing probably wouldn’t happen until at least May, and that bids wouldn’t go out on the project until the summer of 2016.

“We don’t anticipate an engineering plan until January of 2016,” he said.

Committee member Arnold Schmidt asked if there were any plans for lights or a sound system in the park. Middlebush area residents objected last year to a plan to install a speaker system for the Pop Warner football program in Middlebush Park.

“The answer is no,” Vornlocker said. “There are no sound systems proposed, there are no lighting systems proposed. None has been requested.”

“I have not been given any direction by (the Township Council) to do anything remotely like that,” he said.

Vornlocker said no cost estimate has been developed yet.

Most of the audience members who chose to speak during the public portion were members of two cricket leagues, asking for more cricket pitches. Amir Iqbal, a Hamilton Street business owner, was one of them.

There are eight teams in the township, but only three fields, he said.

“We ask that all eight teams have a home field,” he said. “Next year we expect three to four more teams.”

Township Councilman Rajiv Prasad (D-At Large) explained that to participate in the leagues, teams have to have a home field to host games.

Iqbal said the games typically last six or seven hours, a fact which brought Penny Condulis of Gregory Lane to the microphone.

“The more I hear about this cricket, the scareder I get,” she said. “Six to seven hours? It’s just upsetting.”

Vijay Upadhyaya of 14th Street told the committee that the township’s Indian population is growing, as is the popularity of cricket.

“This game is getting everywhere,” he said. “One point eight billion people are involved in this game. It’s not a small game.”

“We need more fields,” he said.

Mary Patricia Arace of Gregory Lane said that she was concerned that the fields “are so close to our condos.”

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