Still on the fence about Oval redesign


A visit to a neighboring recreation facility with portable fencing has led a key official to question his thinking of how the Gunnell Oval rec complex in Kearny should be redesigned.

Members of the town’s governing body were recently invited to do an eyeball inspection of the “upper field” of the Lyndhurst Rec athletic complex on Valley Brook Ave. where temporary fencing separates soccer from softball playing areas.

Use of such fencing figures in a debate between advocates of the Oval “Plan A,” which deploys portable fencing to divide the area shared by Pony League and the main (70-by-120-yard) soccer field and those pressing for a “Plan B” concept which eliminates the need for temporary fencing by reducing the length of the soccer field to 115 yards and paring the right field distance of a Pony League field and a Little League field and, instead, uses permanent fencing.

Both options include new features: a playground, outdoor fitness area, volleyball and tennis courts. They also show walking paths, skate park and a basketball court. All playing surfaces would be turf.

In an email response to a question posted by The Observer last week, Mayor Alberto Santos — who has publicly expressed support for Option A — said: “My visit to Lyndhurst led to additional questions (like can the fence on wheels have two sides so that only one of them has to be wheeled out?)”

Santos said he was “still trying to assess whether a portable fence could work with Option A.”

Meanwhile, Fourth Ward Councilman Michael Landy, who chairs the town’s Recreation Committee and favors Plan B, told The Observer, “I don’t think temporary fencing is the solution. Lyndhurst does it seasonally — which would defeat the whole purpose for us.”

Specifically, Landy said, the “key” to Plan A is that fencing would “go through the middle of the large soccer field and would stay up for the whole spring, so that means travel teams won’t be able to use it during that season.”

No Kearny Rec soccer teams play in the spring, he said.

It would make more sense, he said, to go with Plan B.

There are also logistic issues associated with the fencing itself to be considered, Landy said.

“It comes in five sections, but those wheeled sections don’t lock,” he said. “And they don’t use a tractor to pull it out.” The 6-foot-high elevation is “taller than our 3 to 3 ½-foot fence at Veteran’s Field,” which would make it that much more difficult to maneuver, he added.

“I’ve been a high school coach [in Harrison] for 20 years so I understand how this works,” Landy said.

Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, the other Fourth Ward representative, also checked out the Lyndhurst facility’s temporary fencing, which, she said, is used to “create an arc for the softball team.”

McCurrie had these observations about the Lyndhurst chain-link fencing: “It’s sturdy and will protect the players but it is comprised of 40 panels and takes two to three hours to set it up — it’s not something you can put up or break down easily. I don’t see our Little League wanting to do that for every game.”

At this point, McCurrie said she’s still undecided about which design option is preferable, although right now, she’s leaning toward Plan A.

Council President Carol Jean Doyle didn’t make it to Lyndhurst, but she said she’s hoping to see a video of the fencing layout prepared for the council by Neglia Engineering, the town’s consulting engineers, to help guide their thinking.

The mayor and council are due to vote June 27 on a final design option that can be circulated among prospective bidders for the project which will include site grading and drainage improvements. The cost has been estimated as approaching $20 million. Kearny is seeking outside grant funds to help with financing.

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