Conversion of Veteran’s Memorial Field off Belgrove Drive in Kearny, from natural grass to artificial turf, with associated improvements, was slated to start this week.
Town Recreation Director Ralph Cattafi said the Board of Education has graciously agreed to let the town use the Franklin School field for youth football practices and the high school field for games this fall so there should be no disruption of that program during the construction.
Applied Landscape Technologies of Montville, awarded the $1,522,500 contract on July 14, is expected to finish the job by Thanksgiving, Cattafi said.
Aside from the turfing, Cattafi said the work will involve these improvements:
• adding a new lacrosse field.
• creating an additional Little League diamond overlapping the existing football field and the lacrosse field.
• shifting one of the Little League scoreboards to deepen that field’s outfield fences, from the existing 180 feet to 200 feet.
• changing a Little League field dimensions to provide 50 feet between the pitcher’s mound and home and 70 feet between bases, pegged to the abilities of 13- and 14-yearolds. “It’s a growing trend around the country,” Cattafi said.
• installing temporary fencing for both softball and the new Little League field and permanent fencing for the existing Little League field.
• new batting cages.
Meanwhile, on another recreation front, the town’s consulting engineers were tweaking plans for a massive facelift and turfing of the Gunnell Oval Recreational Complex off Schuyler Ave. following a July 31 public hearing on the $21.4 million redevelopment project which has yet to go out to bid.
At the hearing, homeowners along E. Midland Ave., which borders the Oval to the south, expressed misgivings about the plans. Joseph Toth, Steven Wood and Peg Siegle all had different concerns about the efficacy of the plans and their potential impact on property and wildlife.
But Joseph Vuich and David Juzmeski, representing Neglia Engineering, the town’s consultants, sought to reassure the owners that there were sufficient safeguards being taken to prevent harmful impacts to both properties and animals.
Neglia representative Joseph Vuich said the Oval project – which will be financed by a combination of federal and state funding sources – will require a “significant” infusion of clean fill and cap “to minimize potential exposure to historic fill materials present on-site,” along with storm water management controls designed to “minimize the impact of frequent flooding” in the area “due to the influence of the tidal Kearny Marsh.”
He said a new storm water collection system would be installed at the north end of the Oval to flow to a drainage facility “for overflow protection,” and thence, to a pump station at the property’s south end for discharge over the Conrail property into the marsh. And the intention is to “elevate the site above the flood plain.”
But Toth disputed the assumption, reflected on current FEMA maps, that the Oval area is located in a flood zone and claimed that in the past, when some E. Midland homes got excess water, it was the result of an ineffective combined sanitary-storm sewer system. “In the Sandy event, the water receded within 24 hours. The Oval doesn’t flood,” he said. “If you’re going to be collecting excess rain water, will that push the creek water towards our houses?”
“I don’t see a need for a $21 million project,” Toth said.
Further, Toth said, “we get a lot of animals, fox, deer, geese, which we like. How’s this project going to impact them?” As for the geese poop, he added, “how are you going to clean it?”
Juzmeski of Neglia said that, “the improvements shouldn’t impact you. The stone and impervious surface under the turf will continue to infiltrate and store some of the storm water. Also, we’ll provide back-flow preventers – that will act like a tide gate – and an overflow system, a set of storm drains at the foot of E. Midland and a pump to send excess water to the marsh. We will also install four 24-inch mains at the railroad cut to help take the flow of water.” As for the wildlife, “Those animals will migrate back to the marsh,” he said.
To prevent struck baseballs from landing in E. Midland neighbors’ yards, Vuich said, “We will create a consistent high chain-link fence, probably in the range of 12 feet, and above that, eight feet of netting” to trap those balls.
When the improvements are done, Vuich said the turfed and reconfigured Oval will accommodate three Little League fields, three softball diamonds, two high school regulation fields, four T-ball fields overlapping with four developmental soccer fields and one regulation soccer field.