Rec group unveils plans for Ely Field

Phase one would cost up to $175,000

By: Gwen Runkle
   LAMBERTVILLE — The Recreation Commission unveiled its new plans for Ely Field at its meeting Tuesday at City Hall, and community response from the dozen members in attendance was positive.
   "We would be proud to have this park in our community," said Scott MacNeill, a Lambertville resident, as he commended the commission for seeing to the needs of the community.
   The commission hopes this community support will continue to spread since it must go next before the City Council in May to gain support and the funds needed to begin the engineering study of its plan.
   The multi-phase plan would reorganize the park into a more functional and safer facility by rearranging the existing utilities, like the basketball court and playground area, and adding new amenities, such as a 1,600-square-foot shelter and improved parking area.
   In the spring of 2000, the commission recruited the services of Kendra Lelie, a professional planner from the Stockton office of Scangarello and Associates, to design the concept plan incorporating feedback from the commission and various community members, such as the mayor and school board.
   Ms. Lelie lives in Stockton and grew up using the current park. She has taken the renovations to heart especially now that her family uses the park as well.
   "The main goal was to, number one, provide a safe environment with the existing facilities," she said. "The second goal was to provide new amenities."
   The major proposed changes to the park would occur between Lambertville Public School and the fence line at the adult softball and baseball field. The adult softball and baseball field and football field, the section of the park closest to Franklin Street, would remain essentially unchanged.
   The commission is happy with how it is being utilized, and the wetland area near the creek there would make construction impossible. In addition, the New Jersey Department of Transportation soon will be working on the drainage of the area.
   The first phase of the park plan would include removal and reconstruction of the playground area, little league field, basketball courts and construction of bricked walkways connecting those areas, which will cost approximately $160,000 to $175,000.
   The playground area would double in size and be moved closer to the school, where the little league baseball field now stands, to heighten its visibility from the street area and become more accessible to the disabled. The commission also chose to use new playground equipment.
   According to the commission, the current equipment already is considered obsolete, and relocation of the equipment would be more costly than a new purchase.
   "It would cost $25,000 to remove it," said Bob Pierman, commission member.
   "And it was questionable as to if it could be stabilized after," Ms. Lelie added.
   The basketball courts also would be expanded. One full court and a neighboring half court would be moved closer to the school into the current outfield section of the little league field, with fencing along the ends of the courts. Students would have a place to play during bad weather, as Ms. Lelie pointed out the surface could be cleared easily of snow.
   "The little league baseball field has basically been flipped," Ms. Lelie said.
   Home plate would be near the adult softball field, and the outfield would encompass the current basketball courts and practice baseball field areas. It would also be expanded 10 to 15 feet in the outfield to be regulation size.
   The plan also includes other features to be worked on in later phases. The commission wants to create a shelter as a central area for the park and a fitness trail surrounding the park. Other optional areas, such as a skating area, community garden, volleyball court and a checkers and chess area are included in the plan, but will be considered as funds become available.
   The parking area also would be expanded, running from the small lot near the school gym that already exists all the way to the current parking area — adding parking for 24 cars.
   In addition, the DOT will put up a fenced walkway along the entire length of the park on Route 29. The DOT will be paying for this construction so the expense of this project was not figured into phase one. The sidewalk will be brick and 2 to 3 feet wide. Space will be left between the road and the 5 to 6 foot ornamental wrought-iron fence as a buffer for bicyclists.
   The existing restrooms would remain until the second or third phases when the board hopes to have a sport utility room, concessions and restrooms built in that area.
   After Ms. Lelie finished with her presentation of the plan, many of the community members expressed their satisfaction, but they also had many questions.
   Safety was a big concern. Many wanted to make sure there would be adequate fencing and proper lighting. To which Ms. Lelie responded reassuringly.
   Also Audrey Frankowski, a Lambertville resident, was concerned about the access for emergency vehicles.
   Ms. Lelie and Barbara Fordyce, commission member and plan committee chair, explained the existing access between the school and little league field would remain intact, and the fitness trail that would run along the back of the park could double as an access road. It would be made of a material similar as what is used for the path along the canal and will be 10 to 15 feet wide in that section.
   Also two parking spaces could be removed to ensure emergency vehicles would be able to make the turn in the parking lot.
   The young people who attended were concerned mainly with the skating area and how soon the entire project would be completed. Adam Warwinsky, a second-grader, wanted to make sure there would be ramps in the skating area and eagerly asked, "When will it all be done?"
   But while the commission assured him there would be ramps it could not give him a definite date for completion. Beyond presenting the plan to the City Council in May, the commission does not have a set timetable for implementing the plan for Ely Field because everything depends on funding.
   If the council approves the plan, the commission also will seek funds through state and federal grants and begin drawing up more specific engineering and architectural plans, but the entire construction project will take time.
   "There will be a year or two where there will have to be an interim snack shop and things," Ms. Lelie said.