City gets $50,000 for Ely Field

First phase of improvements would cost up to $175,000

By: Cynthia Williamson
   LAMBERTVILLE — A three-phase plan to improve Ely Memorial Field got a financial boost last week from the state, which has earmarked $50,000 from the new budget to the project.
   "I think it’s great," Mayor David Del Vecchio said. "It’s $50,000 local taxpayers won’t have to pay."
   The City Council unanimously introduced an ordinance last month that would authorize spending up to $175,000 to complete the first phase of the plan. The state funds would offset that figure.
   Mr. Del Vecchio said "it shows" acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco is "willing to work with us."
   He added, "He has already worked with us on truck traffic on Route 29, and the fact he’s willing to fund this shows he wants to make it safer for our kids."
   Part of the state funds would be used to move the Little League baseball field from its current location adjacent to the elementary school to the center of the park and away from Route 29 at a cost of about $35,000.
   "We were thrilled when we heard about it," said Barbara Fordyce, a member of the city’s Recreation Commission, which is spearheading the project.
   If the ordinance is adopted at a public hearing set for 7:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, the commission would contribute $15,000 from its trust fund that the city would match with community development funds. The city also is seeking a contribution from the school, which uses the playground and Little League field for recess and physical education.
   "We still need help from other community organizations," Ms. Fordyce said, adding fund-raisers would be held to pay for such things as the skateboard park. The landscape architect on the project, Thomas J. Scangarello and Associates, also is seeking grants.
   Under the first phase of the plan, the baseball field would be replaced with a 22- to 24-space parking lot to be built along Route 29 where a snack stand, dugout and restroom currently exist. The new parking area would be contiguous with the smaller of two parking lots in front of the school. A new playground and a full- and half-size basketball court would be built directly behind the parking area for a cost of about $69,000, Ms. Fordyce said.
   "I’m very happy with the redesign plans," Mrs. Fordyce said. "Everybody really seems to like it for different reasons. It seems like it’s got something for everybody."
   A site plan, engineering and permits would add about another $25,000 to the costs for a total of about $170,000 to complete the first phase, she said. Once approvals are granted, work could get under way by the end of the year, but Ms. Fordyce said construction most likely would not begin until spring.
   The Lambertville-West Amwell Youth Baseball Association has agreed to use a field at Hewitt Park in West Amwell if construction at Ely Field interferes with the 2002 season, she said.
   "We’ll know more clearly once the engineering is done," she said.
   The second phase would "fill in the blanks" with a proposed fitness trail, skateboard park, a pavilion and a possibly a snack bar as well as amenities, such as lighting, water fountains, bicycle racks and benches. The park would be handicapped-accessible.
   The final phase of the plan calls for building a 2,200-square-foot facility near the Little League field for a snack stand, restrooms and storage.
   "If the community wanted it and raised money for it, it could be a two-story building with a community room upstairs," Ms. Fordyce said. "It’s situated so it can be used by a lot of different sports groups."
   Under the state Department of Transportation’s scenic byway plan, a 5-foot-wide brick path would be built along the west side of the park on Route 29 and shielded from the road with a 3-foot-wide vegetative buffer. A 6-foot-high decorative fence would be installed between the path and the park.
   The scenic byway project has not been funded and could take between three and five years before it gets under way.