Naturalist chosen for Harrison Street Park project

Rehabilitation plan on tap for three-acre site

By: Kara Fitzpatrick
   Moving forward plans to improve the Harrison Street Park, the Princeton Borough Council on Tuesday passed a resolution naming naturalist Stephen Hiltner as the professional who will provide services for the site.
   Over the course of two months, Mr. Hiltner, a North Harrison Street resident who is the natural resources manager for the Friends of Princeton Open Space and sits on the Joint Princeton Environmental Commission, will gather information that will be used to create a rehabilitation plan for the three-acre park.
   Mr. Hiltner said he is prepared for the task ahead.
   "My challenge is to integrate nature and recreation, to propose solutions that solve multiple problems in a cost-effective way," Mr. Hiltner said Wednesday.
   He said the park has its share of problems that need to be mended to make it an ideal community site. Inadequate play equipment, wet fields and a landscape that lacks diversity, color and interest are all issues that will be probed during Mr. Hiltner’s information-gathering period.
   The borough has been collaborating with residents, who have formed Harrison Street Park Friends, to develop goals for the future of the park. Some of the goals include conserving the natural feeling of the park; enhancing its wooded areas; developing playground equipment that is consistent with the park’s natural aesthetic; and improving pedestrian access. Other goals include the creation of a more efficient stormwater management plan that, whenever possible, utilizes natural solutions and the involvement of neighbors in the restoration and ongoing stewardship of the park.
   Mr. Hiltner, who said he has been present at most of the neighborhood meetings about the park, said he believes residents strongly favor improved playground equipment on the site. In addition, he said, people want the park to be a place "to have contact with nature on a daily basis."
   Many neighbors care deeply about the project, Mr. Hiltner said. "I hope to show how seemingly contradictory desires — for additional playground equipment or for preserving a more naturalistic feel — need not conflict."
   He is hopeful that his research will result in solutions that satisfy all preferences. "If we can integrate diverse, low-maintenance plantings — that attract birds, butterflies and so forth — into the typical trees-and-turf urban landscape, there’s a chance to make nature’s rhythms and beauty more a part of people’s lives.
   Mr. Hiltner said his work would likely begin in the coming weeks.
   In other business Tuesday, the council approved a contract between the borough, Princeton Township and Princeton Community Television.
   Also, four probationary patrol officers were given an official oath of office. Three of the candidates — Leonard Thomas, Garrett Brown and William Matelski — will be attending Cape May County Police Academy next month and the other, Jason Stallworth, has already begun training.