PARK AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MARCH 3, 2004
Approval of Minutes: Mrs. Kelly moved to accept the minutes of March 3, 2004. Mr. Clancy seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, March 3, 2004, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Joel Grosso, Vice Chairman; Michael Clancy, John Davis, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill, and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were: Richard Weaver, Township Supervisor; Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director; Russell G. Strover, Township Naturalist; and Frank Mendicino, Planning Commission liaison.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:35. He noted that because the members of the public in attendance had indicated that they wish to participate in discussion on Roberts Ridge Park, he would move that discussion to the top of the agenda.
Reports of Sub-Committees
Park Development/Roberts Ridge
Mr. Levine provided the board and members of the public with a site plan prepared by Pennoni Associates, showing proposed parking expansions along Lower Dolington Road, proposed restrooms, and a playground expansion. He said that he had approached that Board of Supervisors to update this plan to reflect discussions this Board had had at the February meeting. He reminded that Board that they had agreed that they had recommended that the existing parking area be extended southward for an additional 46 spaces. He said that there had also been discussion as to whether the existing playground should be moved closer to the parking area to better accommodate handicapped visitors. He reminded the Board that $40,000 had been allocated toward playground improvements in this year’s budget, and that it is not known whether any additional money will be allocated toward the playground in future years. He said that he would like the Board to discuss how best to use the $40,000 allocated toward the playground.
Mr. Levine also noted that he believes that it might still be possible to work with the Newtown Rotary and other service organizations to raise some additional funding toward handicapped specific play equipment.
Mr. Grosso asked if any money saved from the $70,000 allocated toward a Lower Dolington Road parking lot could be applied toward the playground. He said that he thought it might be less expensive to expand the existing parking lot.
Mr. Weaver said that the Park and Recreation Board could ask for approval from the Board of Supervisor to reallocate the Roberts Ridge parking budget toward the playground.
Mrs. Kelly asked if the Board wished to reconsider the idea of moving the existing playground. She noted that the estimated cost for such a move is $19,800, and does not include resurfacing the playground, grading the new location, re-grading the current location and new border edging.
Mr. Levine suggested that, although the Board had decided not to move the play equipment at the last meeting, it had not been formally voted on, and so he would like to allow public input before a decision is made.
Mr. Charles Weiner, a resident, stated that he is an attorney specializing in the rights of special needs children. He said that when addressing the idea of a handicapped playground, the first priority should be inclusion. He said that there should be no separation of playgrounds, and that the goal should be interaction of all children in a playground that is accessible to all. He noted that while the wood chip surface on the existing playground is ADA compliant, it does exclude some children. He said that while all playground equipment is not appropriate for all children, it should be accessible to all children, with the individual parents and children deciding which equipment to use.
Mr. Levine said that at the time the original playground was built, the cost of safety surfacing the entire playground with tile was very prohibitive, and the tile itself was a new product that the manufacturers were not offering a long guarantee on. It was considered an experimental product, and Newtown was being observed to assess the durability and accessibility of the product.
Mrs. Nancy Crescenzo, a resident, stated that she works with children with different degrees of handicaps. She agreed with Mr. Weiner that the playgrounds should not be separated, and that the goal should be inclusion for all. She said that this Board should work toward an inclusive playground. She said that in addition to the needs of handicapped children, the needs of the elderly should be considered and that the current playground is too far from the parking area, and too long a walk for both the handicapped and the elderly. She said that frequently older grandparents accompany little children to the park. She said that she thought that the goal should be to work toward an accessible playground.
Mrs. Tammy Sutton, a resident, said that she is the parent of a handicapped child who uses a wheelchair. She said that the distance from the parking lot to the playground might be an issue for some handicapped people, but that the bigger issue is the accessibility of the playground. She noted that Roberts Ridge is a large park, and that there will always be some area that is farther away from the parking lot. She said that all of the paths are paved and the area from the parking lot to the equipment is flat. She said that she did not think that moving the equipment should be the top priority. She said that the goal of the Board should be inclusion of all children in the same playground. She said that handicapped children might not be able to use all of the equipment, but that they want to be a part of the playing. She suggested adding such features as ramps to the platforms, so that children with handicaps can go with their friends to the different play levels on the equipment. She said that it is also important for all children to be involved with the handicapped children, so that thinking about handicapped accommodations will be a natural reaction to park planning for future generations.
Mr. Grosso noted that with the extension of the parking area to the south, the distance from the parking spaces that would be handicapped reserved would be shortened. He suggested that making the existing playground handicapped accessible in its current location would be a better use of Park and Recreation funds.
Mr. Levine said that at this time the solid safety surface has been tested in the play area for small children, and it has been successful. He suggested that the Board consider resurfacing the entire playground.
Mr. Grosso suggested that the manufacturer be consulted about retrofitting the existing equipment with ramps.
Mr. Levine asked Mrs. Tammy Sutton if she would attend future meetings at which ramping and handicapped specific play equipment is selected. Mrs. Sutton agreed to help. She also suggested that the Board visit the Newtown Elementary School playground, which has some handicapped specific play events.
Mrs. Crescenzo asked if money budgeted for Silver Lake Park could be moved to Roberts Ridge. She said that she is concerned that future budgets might not allocate money toward playgrounds because of the proposed municipal building expansion. She also said that she thought that the Board should pick one park and do it right rather than allocating money to all parks for small improvements. She said that she thought that Silver Lake should not be part of the budget at all, but should be left as meadows.
Mr. Levine noted that this Board has already made substantial cuts to the Silver Lake budget, and has considered it among its lower priorities, with Roberts Ridge and the Woll Tract as its top priorities. He also reminded the Board and residents that a large portion of this year’s Silver Lake budget is money that had been escrowed in recreation fees, and cannot be used elsewhere.
Mr. Weaver suggested that the Board request that the Board of Supervisors use some of the parking budget for playground equipment.
Mr. Levine said that the Board of Supervisors had asked him to present the existing plan with penciled in changes to the parking area, and expansion of the playground, before they would budget for Pennoni to draw a new sketch plan. He showed on the larger copy of the plan that he would draw a 46-space extension to the south end of the existing parking area, and an expansion to the western side of the playground. The restrooms would remain in the same location.
Mr. Mendicino said that there would be no need to bring this before the Planning Commission for review. He also noted that the Planning Commission had not voted to recommend that the playground be relocated closer to the parking area. This had been discussed, and put forth for consideration only.
Mr. Levine repeated that he would like some input from Mrs. Sutton in the selection of additional equipment and with ramping for existing equipment. He said that he would also consult with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit for advice on the various events that are handicapped specific.
Park Development/Woll Tract
Mr. Levine reported that he, Mr. Clancy, Mr. Grosso and Mr. Wert had reviewed the six bids received for proposals for the Woll Tract. The proposals ranged from $23,040 to $83,685. Three firms fell within the $23,040 to $30,000 range: Lord, Worrell and Richter; Simone, Jaffe and Collins; and Pickering Corts and Sommerson.
Mr. Levine said that the sub-committee was particularly impressed with the $29,737 proposal from Pickering Corts and Sommerson. They were specific in their methods for the public participation process, which included identifying and interviewing key opinion leaders in the community. They would also work with Toole Recreation Planning, a firm very well regarded in the state. Their proposal also focused on lighting and access to the park. He noted that Pickering had designed Brownsburg Park and Lookout Park in Upper Makefield.
Mr. Wert said that because the sub-committee was very impressed with Pickering Corts and Sommerson, Township Manager Robert Pellegrino suggested that he approach them to see if they could reduce their proposal, and they agreed to $23,600.
Mr. Mendicino said that Pickering Corts and Sommerson is a Newtown firm that has access to the most up to date surveys for the surrounding properties.
Mr. Wert said that they have agreed to present a plan by the requested deadline of July 2, 2004.
Mrs. Sue Sutton moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that they accept the bid of Pickering Corts and Sommerson for a plan for the Woll Tract. Mrs. Kelly seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mr. Levine reported that he and Mr. Wert had visited the Dunmore building with Jim Worthington. He said that Mr. Worthington had not decided on any plans for the space yet, but he was still open to discussion with the Township for some shared uses. Mr. Levine noted that there is an area that had been office space that could work as meeting rooms for classes, or senior citizen and teen clubs, as well as an open area suitable for indoor sports. He suggested that this Board continue to communicate with Mr. Worthington as his plans progress.
Mr. Mendicino reminded the Board that the Business Commons is not zoned for community center use, nor is this use part of the recommended changes to the Ordinance.
Mr. Levine said that he serves on the Economic Development Committee and was sure that they would be open to adding community center to their list of suggested uses by right.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Clancy moved to accept the minutes of February 4, 2004. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Reports of Liaisons
Mr. Mendicino reported that Mrs. Kelly and Mr. Grosso had presented plans for improvements to Silver Lake Park, including a parking area, informal ball field, walking path and fountain.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that there had been a 115% increase in revenue and 16% increase in participation over last year. He attributed the revenue increase to the early camp registration of Newtown residents. Mr. Wert asked Mr. Levine to promote upcoming Park and Recreation programs during his report to the Board of Supervisors. He also reported that he has begun to review the possibility of an extended day at the summer camps. He has confirmed with the school district that there will not be additional custodial fees if campers remain until 6:00PM. He said that his staff was reviewing the costs associated with additional staff hours and planned activities.
Mr. Wert presented a letter from Harris & Harris outlining their research into restrictions on the Woll Tract, and the ten acres deeded to the Township by Eliot Builders. It appears that there are no restrictions to the property.
Mr. Levine suggested that there are portions of the St. Andrew’s Briar recorded plan referred to in the letter that could be open to other interpretations. He suggested that Mr. Wert ask Mr. Harris to research this matter further and present a more definitive opinion on restrictions to the property. He said that it would be better to resolve this to everyone’s satisfaction soon, as it could delay the park project. Mr. Levine suggested that Mr. Harris should also review any Pheasante Pointe documents as well as the deed to the farmhouse between the two Eliot developments.
Mr. Mendicino noted that as the sub-committee considers access points to the Woll Tract, that while a Route 413 entrance might not warrant a traffic light, Northampton has dealt with a similar problem with their fields on Newtown Richboro Road He said that the police department is called to direct traffic when tournaments are in progress.
Mrs. Sutton reported that the annual Arbor Day celebration would be held on April 23 at Pickering Field. She asked the Board members to help with the planned activities. She also asked if any Board members would be able to help with costs, because Agway had reduced its contribution this year.
Mr. O’Neill said that he would investigate some sponsorship opportunities with Little League.
Mr. Davis suggested that he try to arrange for folk singer Daria to perform for the children.
Mrs. Kelly moved to adjourn at 9:30PM. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary