OK, sports fans, here’s good news!

By Ron Leir |


Bergen County has pledged a $5 million fix-up of ball-fields and other facilities in the borough section of Riverside Park, North Arlington officials said.

An announcement released by a borough spokesman – also posted on the municipal web site – said that under an agreement between the administration of Bergen County Executive Kathe Donovan and North Arlington – the county will begin the job this fall and finish by next spring.

The announcement quoted Freeholder John Felice, county parks chairman, as saying that funding from Bergen’s open space trust fund has been reserved to pay for the work.

“I am extremely happy that the county could come to the aid of North Arlington and make the improvements that will benefit many people in the South Bergen area,” Felice said.

The county will reshape the park to create two  softball fields in the southern portion to be used by the  youth recreation teams. The county is exploring the possibility of lighting the fields, while a cost analysis will help determine whether to provide natural grass or artificial turf.

Also in the plans are a new baseball diamond that will accommodate Babe Ruth League or high school play; two soccer fields; a new drainage system; new restroom, and upgraded pedestrian walkways.

Councilman Joseph Bianchi said: “I am pleased beyond words that the county is going to address the conditions at Riverside Park, which have deteriorated to the point of embarrassment.”

Mayor Peter Massa said  he met with former County Executive Dennis McNerny and ex-parks director Ray Dressler a year ago to discuss the condition of the fields assigned for borough play space.

“Both assured me back then that they would provide drainage relief and structural renovation of those fields, and they gave me a set of plans that I took back to Borough Hall with me and made them available to anyone who wanted to view them,” the mayor said.

“And they promised me that money would be made available in the following year’s budget,” he added.

It appears now they are keeping their word, Massa said.

That’s all well and good, Councilman Steve Tanelli said, since “the improvements are long overdue,” but before the work starts, attention needs to be paid to “the problem-plagued permit process the county uses for scheduling playing time in its parks.”

“Too often, the county issues duplicate permits for different teams at the same time to play on the same field,” Tanelli griped. “That is a problem that needs to be addressed now before money is spent on the park. If the new playing fields are not generally available to our children, then the upgrades and spending of $5 million means nothing for North Arlington.”

“With the large county investment of taxpayer dollars to improve the facility, I want assurances that North Arlington will get priority on those fields and even have fields designated for our use only during certain times of the year,” Tanelli said.

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