PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF MARCH 7, 2007
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, March 7, 2007, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: Andrew Levine, Chairman; Joel Grosso, Vice-Chairman; Michael Clancy John Davis, 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 7:00PM
Approval of Minutes
Mrs. Sutton moved to accept the minutes of January 3, 2007. Mr. Grosso seconded and the motion passed 4-0-1, with Mr. Clancy abstaining.
Reports of Subcommittees
Mr. O’Neill introduced Marcus Zotter, a Council Rock North student, who made a power point presentation about skate parks. Mr. Zotter noted that there are over 12,000 students in Council Rock School District, with over 5,000 attending the six schools located within Newtown Township. Mr. Zotter collected 600 signatures on his petition for support of a skate park within the Township.
Mr. Zotter showed photographs of various ramps, boxes and rails that would be needed for a park, and he stressed that the most important factors in planning and installation of these pieces of equipment are a smooth surface and wide spacing between each piece to allow ample room for skaters to use the equipment.
In considering a location for the skate park, Mr. Zotter noted that many of those using the park cannot drive, so a location near the downtown area would be ideal. There is room for equipment at Carl Sedia Park on Sycamore Street and at the soccer fields behind Staples. He also considered inclusion of the skate park in the plans for the Woll tract or at the municipal complex.
A very popular skate park is located in Hopewell on the municipal complex property. This location works well because of the other activity at the complex. Because of its proximity to the police and fire departments, there is an added element of safety. Hopewell’s park does not charge admission and no attendant is on duty, but because it is located on the municipal property, there are always adults very near by. He noted that our own municipal complex might have room for a skate park.
Mr. Zotter interviewed Michael C. Hritz, Director of Hopewell Valley Parks and Recreation Department, who discussed the construction and operation of the park. The Hopewell park cost about $240,000 for construction, purchase and installation of equipment. Skaters were involved in the planning of the park, working with Spohn Ranch, manufacturer of Hopewell’s park equipment. Mr. Hritz indicated that the park does not charge admission, and there is no attendant on duty. Rules are posted at the skate park; the users tend to enforce the rules on each other. The location at the Hopewell municipal complex makes an attendant unnecessary, since the police, fire and emergency services share the same premises. No waivers have been required. The skate park is only open during the day, weather permitting. It is the intention of the Hopewell Parks and Recreation Department to begin enforcing rules in the coming season.
Following Mr. Zotter’s brief presentation, Mr. Levine reviewed the possible locations for a skate park. He said that at this point, it would appear that Newtown Township’s insurance carriers will probably require a waiver from each user, and might require an attendant to be on duty while any skate park is in use.
David Levine expressed support for the project, but requested that the equipment include a bowl feature.
Ursula Gellery said that she had visited the skate park in Hopewell with her children, and felt that an attendant is not necessary. She noted that older users have been respectful and helpful to younger, or less experienced users. She asked about the requirement to sign waivers. She objected to an admission fee being charged.
Mr. Wert said that it appears that the Township’s insurer would require that a waiver be signed before a skater could use the facility. He has begun investigating the feasibility of a seasonal or yearly pass with a waiver on file, as is done in Middletown Township.
William Konawalik asked whether the park would be limited to skate boards.
Mr. Levine said that this is the early planning stage; whether in-line skates or bikes would be permitted is yet to be determined.
Christine Edmunds agreed with statements made by Ms. Gellery. She noted that a number of parks assign specific hours for use by skate boards, in-line skates and bikes. She is a member of Newtown Borough’s Park and Recreation Board, and would be willing to act as liaison with the Borough as plans progress.
Harry Edmunds was very much in favor of a skate park. He did not think that there would be a need for a facility for bikes in Newtown.
Cody Mitchell expressed concern about allowing bikes, skaters and skate board users to share the same facility; he felt it could be very dangerous.
Russ Horrocks, a sales representative for Spohn Ranch, said that he designed the Hopewell and Middletown parks. He agreed that bikes should not be permitted at the same time as skate boards, but that the equipment could accommodate both activities. He agreed with Ms. Gellery’s statement that children of different ages and skill levels work well together sharing the space.
Lyle Smith expressed some concern that helmets and padding might be required in the park. Others in attendance expressed similar concerns, some suggesting that parental waivers could be signed to allow users to participate without protective equipment.
Mr. Levine said that such issues would be determined by the insurance carrier. At Mr. Clancy’s suggestion, the skaters in attendance were asked by a show of hands whether they would use the park if helmets and/or pads were required. Only two skaters indicated a willingness to wear both helmet and pads.
Nina Zotter said that some of those skaters who were against helmets and pads had attended camps requiring such safety equipment, and had not objected. She said that if required to, skaters would cooperate with safety equipment rules.
Robert Ciervo expressed support for the project. He noted that more than twenty years ago he had tried to bring a skate park to Newtown. He strongly preferred that the park be located at the soccer field behind Staples because of its proximity to the schools and to shopping areas. He noted that the ample parking would make it a better location for demonstrations and competitions.
Nancy Ursick asked whether Hopewell’s park would become less popular if rules were enforced.
Mr. Horrock briefly discussed the difference between Pennsylvania’s and New Jersey’s liability insurance laws. He said that Newtown might be required to enforce certain safety rules not required in Hopewell. He speculated that Hopewell’s decision to enforce rules might refer to no-smoking and no aggressive behavior rules.
Mr. Levine repeated that season passes, fees and rules are all to be addressed at a later time. Decisions would be based in part by insurance requirements. He outlined certain difficulties with using the field behind Staples, sometimes called no-name park. Only a portion of the area belongs to the Township, with some of the grassy area belonging to the shopping center’s stormwater management and some to its parking held in reserve. A meeting would be set up to learn whether the shopping center owners would be willing to allow a skate park. At present this is the Township’s only soccer field. There is to be an expansion to the municipal complex at some time in the future. He would investigate whether there would be available room for the additional impervious surface a skate park would require there. Woll tract construction is scheduled to begin later this year, with a park not opening until some time in 2008. There has also been some recent discussion with senior citizen residents of Chandler Hall about the use of Carl Sedia Park. They would have to be included in discussion about using Carl Sedia for a skate park.
Many of those in attendance expressed preference for a site in or very near the downtown area, within walking distance to the schools and shops.
In response to questions about the site of the old Acme, Mr. Levine said that discussion of a community center and/or skate park at that location had been discontinued, and the site is now owned by a developer. When asked about shopkeepers complaints, he said he would investigate that concern.
Kyle Ursick said that the schools do not allow skateboards, so anyone wanting to go to a park after school would still have to go home first.
Mr. Ciervo suggested that it might be possible to use the no-name field for a skate park, and put an additional soccer field on either the Woll or Wiggins tract.
Mr. Levine explained that the comments heard this evening would be discussed by this Board, after which the Board would make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors. He stressed that this Board is advisory only, and any final decision would be left to the Board of Supervisors. He expected that it would take about three months to gain approval from the Supervisors, then, depending on the site chosen, it would be one to two years before a park would be open for use.
Lyle Smith asked whether there would be any fundraising efforts to defray costs.
Mr. Levine suggested that once there has been an approval from the Board of Supervisors, local businesses and organizations could be approached for contributions.
Paul Zotter said that when his son, Marcus, first approached the Board of Supervisors about a skate park, there seemed to be some support for the idea. He asked Mr. Calabro whether that was still the case.
Mr. Calabro said that he is in support of the idea, as is the rest of the Board, but budgeting is a big concern. Fundraising would be a big help in moving the project forward.
Board members explained their prior preference for locating the skate park on the Woll tract. The Woll tract is to be home to organized baseball, soccer and other rectangular field sports, and a playground is planned. The Board wanted to be sure that the park offered some activities for all residents, including skate boarders, many of whom have indicated that they do not participate in other team sports. By locating the skate park at Woll, it becomes a community park, not just a team sport center.
In response to Mr. Mitchell’s questions, Mr. Levine and Mr. Wert briefly discussed recent damage to the no-name field. Because of some over-use, the field has had to be rebuilt. It is expected to be used this coming spring for soccer.
Mr. Wert read into the record a letter from Walter Leck, who was opposed to a skate park at the Woll tract because he feels that skate boarding is very dangerous. He would rather that the park be on the municipal complex property, close to ambulance, fire and police in case of an emergency. Mr. Wert also provided the Board with copies of an article from the Bucks County Herald dated February 8, 2007, outlining Perkasie Borough’s decreased skate park use, which has been declining. Perkasie is considering a reduction in hours of operation at its park, which has a $5 admission fee and an attendant on duty.
Mr. Levine thanked all those who attended and contributed to the discussion. He commended Marcus Zotter on the work he has put into the presentation. He urged those in attendance to check the agendas of this Board on the Township Web site to learn about future discussion. He assured everyone that this Board would work quickly to bring a recommendation to the Supervisors.
Lighting and Turf
Mr. Horrock and Bob Valvano, representing MRC Sports Recreation, were in attendance to discuss synthetic turf products for a field at the Woll tract. Their firm has partnered with Musco Lighting to package the two products, synthetic turf and sports field lighting, at a reduced price. Mr. Valvano provided samples of the turf product and discussed installation and maintenance. He noted that the initial cost of turf for an all purpose rectangular field could be as high at $700,000, but a synthetic field can be used almost constantly, with little or no maintenance. The per use cost of the synthetic turf is much less than a grass field.
Mr. Valvano said that the synthetic monofilament product has been used by professional and college teams in the United States and Europe since 1990. The product has an eight year warranty, but typically lasts a few years longer. When it is replaced, only the turf is replaced, not the drainage system, making the replacement much less expensive than the initial installation. Periodically additional rubber must be added the under-padding. Mr. Horrock said that this material has already been installed at North Penn and Central Bucks football fields.
In response to Board questions, Mr. Valvano agreed to provide a comparison of the costs of the synthetic turf versus grass, both initial installation and over time. He again stressed that the synthetic turf would allow for the constant use of the field, season to season, while grass fields need dormant periods and cannot be used every day, all day, or the grass will not grow. Athletes can wear any sports shoes on the fields. Maintenance is done either weekly or monthly, using a piece of equipment that combs the surface. This machine costs about $2800 and is attached to a tractor.
The Board briefly discussed financing of the turf field, and additional costs for installation and drainage. Mr. Valvano agreed to provide drainage specs to the engineers.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mr. Wert reported that program revenue is up 5%, with a slight decrease in participation. This year senior citizen pricing has been added, and so far 38 participants in 13 programs have taken advantage of the discount. The department continues to expand its use of e-flyers, with 2485 e-flyers sent and 37% opened. Gilmore and Associates has begun the engineering of the Woll tract. A proposal on natural resources management for the Clark Nature Center is being completed with the Heritage Conservancy. Mr. Wert has begun to investigate pre-fabricated restrooms for Roberts Ridge Park. In the spring, the Public Works Department will begin some field improvements at Chandler and Helen Randle fields. Some painting and repairs are being scheduled for the Clark house and barn and some sidewalk extensions are planned for State Street at Freedom Drive and Eagle Road at Amy Circle/Jonquil Drive.
Mrs. Sutton reported that Arbor Day is April 27 and she is seeking some help from Board members to volunteer at children’s programs for the occasion. The members all agreed to help.
Mrs. Sutton reported that she had attended the Newtown Creek Coalition meeting. The group is working on a mission statement. She has also attended a meeting with Chandler Hall representatives to discuss improvements to Carl Sedia Park. Residents are very interested in inter-generational activities for senior citizens and little children.Mr. Davis moved to adjourn at 10:00 PM. Mr. Clancy seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary