PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF JANUARY 3, 2007
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, January 3, 2007, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Joel Grosso, Vice-Chairman; John Davis, Kathy Kelly, Buck O’Neill and Susan Sutton, members. Also in attendance were Bill Wert, Park and Recreation Director, Russell Strover, Township Naturalist, and Philip Calabro, Township Supervisor.
Call to Order
Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Mr. Davis nominated Mr. Levine to serve as chairman. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mrs. Kelly nominated Mr. Grosso to serve as vice-chairman. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Approval of Minutes
Mr. Grosso moved to accept the minutes of December 6, 2006. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 5-0-1, with Mr. Levine abstaining.
Eagle Scout candidate Tucker Barth of Troop 380 presented a plan to build a footbridge over the drainage creek at the northeast corner of the Clark Nature Center. Mr. Barth explained that the creek bed is deep and cuts off access to a whole area of the park. He has worked on his plans with an adult advisor, an engineer with the New Jersey State Park and Forestry Department. These plans show a bridge with a 28 foot span.
Board members discussed the proposed project, noting that it is a more ambitious project than is typically proposed by Eagle Scouts. There was some concern about issues of construction and safety. It was agreed that Mr. Wert would help Mr. Barth present his plans to the Township Engineer and Township Solicitor, to be certain that the project is viable and meets code requirements.
Mr. Wert said that the bridge would connect with a portion of the nature center that is not accessible from within the park. There is an old trail carved by mountain bikers on that side of the creek. It would remain as an informal trail. He further explained that the Mr. Barth would be the Scout in charge of the project, but that the troop would work with him on the project. There would be adult supervision throughout the project.
In response to questions from the Board and Mr. Calabro, Mr. Barth said that he would be attempting to raise money for supplies, and would not begin work until some time in the spring. He would work with his adult advisor to be sure that the plans meet the approval of the Township Engineer and Township Solicitor. He said that the bridge itself would be handicapped accessible, but he did not know whether trails on either side would meet accessibility requirements. This would have to be evaluated by the Township Engineer.
Mr. Calabro suggested that the project be presented to the Board of Supervisors for approval. He thought that, since the project presents a few code concerns, he would like the Supervisors to be aware of the project. He asked about Township liability and insurance coverage.
Mr. Wert said that Eagle Scouts working on projects at the Nature Center are covered by the Township’s policy. This has been investigated on previous projects.
Mr. Levine said that he would speak to the Board of Supervisors about the project when he makes his next report. He commended Mr. Barth on the work he has presented, noting the thoroughness of his plan and proposal.The Board commended Mr. Barth for his work thus far, and thanked him for volunteering on such an ambitious project. The members encouraged him to work closely with Mr. Wert and Mr. Strover to be sure that all concerns are addressed.
Mr. Levine reported that Roberts Ridge Park has been open and children are using it every day and having a lot of fun. Tar paper has been installed on the picnic pavilion roof, with shingles to be added later. A grand opening ceremony and ribbon cutting will be held some time in the spring.
Mr. Levine reported that Gilmore & Associates has been awarded the contract for engineering the Woll tract.
Mr. Wert said that he and Mr. Pellegrino would be meeting with Gilmore & Associates to discuss the scope of the project. He suggested that a representative would be invited to this Board’s meetings to review plans and discuss progress.
Mr. O’Neill reported that the skate park student committee would be ready to give a presentation at the February meeting. The Superintendent of Council Rock School District has given them permission to circulate petitions and make announcements about the project to better gauge interest and support. He expected that a number of interested students would be in attendance for the skate park presentation. He agreed that it might be a good idea to have a representative of Gilmore & Associates in attendance for the presentation.
The members briefly discussed some budgeting concerns if it were decided that the skate park would be placed at a location other than the Woll tract. The project is currently planned for the Woll tract and is part of that budget. They also discussed supervision and lighting for the park. It was agreed that the park would not have lights, and would only be open during daylight hours. Mr. Wert noted that for insurance purposes, an employee would have to be on duty at the skate park, waivers from parents would have to be signed, and it would have to be fenced in. He said that other municipalities sell passes or one-day tickets to their skate parks to cover costs of an employee on duty. Passes would be sold at resident or non-resident rates in the Park and Rec office. Same day tickets and waivers would be available at the skate park.
Mr. Wert said that he has been contacted by a vendor who packages turf and Musco lighting at significant savings. He said that he has some concerns that the all-purpose lighted field at the Woll tract might be difficult to maintain because of continuous use. He asked the Board to investigate the use of turf for that field.
The members briefly discussed the use of Township fields by leagues in other municipalities. Of particular concern is Upper Makefield’s baseball league, which has a large number of Newtown Township residents enrolled. It was agreed that this discussion should be postponed unless or until a non-Newtown team approaches the department for field use.
Mr. Wert reviewed the 2007 budget for the parks. Funds have been allocated for restrooms at Roberts Ridge and for parking and a trail at Silver Lake, as well as some trail extensions on Eagle Road and on State Street. There is a budget for natural resource management and fencing at Clark Nature Center, and field improvements at Chandler and Helen Randle Parks.
The members reviewed the presentation given at a previous meeting by Orleans Homebuilders for the open space at the Goodnoe tract on Eagle Road. Mr. Wert said that he would like to go over these revised plans, because if possible, he would like an easement for a trail connecting Helen Randle Park, though the Woll tract to Hidden Lake and Peter Taylor farmstead. He indicated that the County would be cooperative in efforts to create this greenway system, if it is possible.
Mr. Wert reported that the Park and Recreation department would offer a special senior rate on programming. A 10% discount would be offered to those 55 and over. He said that this would probably help to better gauge participation of senior citizens in Township recreation programs.
Mrs. Sutton said that she and Mr. Wert would be meeting with the Chandler Hall activity director and development coordinator to discuss revitalization of Carl Sedia Park. The development coordinator has experience in writing grants, and has indicated that funds might be available for “multi-generational” park plans.
Board of Supervisors
Mr. Calabro reported that the Board of Supervisors has budgeted money for improvements at Silver Lake Park, to include paved parking and a trail from the parking lot to the lake. He said that this allocation met with some criticism from a few residents. When new development in the former Brandywine tract is completed, the park will see increased use. The members discussed the possibility of locating a community planting bed or garden at this park.
Mr. Calabro said that once engineering is complete, he expects the School Board to formally vote to approve access to the Woll tract through District owned property. Access has already been approved by the facilities committee. There has been no further discussion with the District about the Preston house.
Environmental Advisory Council
Mrs. Sutton reported that she will be attending a joint Newtown Creek Coalition meeting on January 13.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that the new brochure would be mailed in the next few days. This year Camp Beechtree will be offering an extended day for four and five year olds. Camp ends at 12:30 but extended care would be offered until 2:30. For 2006, the recreation programs had an increase in revenue of 3%, with a slight drop in participation.
Mr. Davis pointed out that discount ticket sales are included in the calculations for both revenue and participation, and both have dropped in 2006. He said that these sales are not really recreational programming, and should not be included in the program updates. He said that providing the discounted theme park and ski tickets is really a service rather than a program.
Mr. Wert agreed to remove ticket sales from this portion of the report. He would report on ticket sales separately in subsequent reports.
Mr. Wert reported that the County Open Space Task Force is evaluating its goals, and discussing criteria for use of funding. Some of the older, more developed municipalities have not been able to use their allocated funding because they do not have open space available to acquire or preserve. The Task Force is discussing whether to allow funds to be used for improvements of existing space and historic preservation.
Mr. Davis asked that the Board be provided with an updated fee schedule for calculation of a fee in lieu of open space.
Mr. Calabro said that the Board of Supervisors has not yet approved a 2007 fee schedule. It will probably be voted at the next regular meeting. It is his understanding that fee in lieu of open space for commercial development has changed from a footprint calculation to a square footage calculation.
The Board questioned the fees to be charged for redevelopment of properties that have never paid a recreational impact fee. Mr. Levine said that he had asked the Township Solicitor for an opinion on the former Acme site, which will demolish a building on a property where no fee has been paid. Since a new structure is to be built at that site, a fee will be calculated.Mrs. Kelly moved to adjourn at 9:00PM. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary