PARKS AND RECREATION BOARD
MINUTES OF MEETING OF MAY 7, 2014
The Newtown Township Park and Recreation Board met on Wednesday, May 7, 2014 in Community Room #1. In attendance and voting were: Chairman Andrew Levine and members Denis D’Arcy, Mark Joseph, Mark McMenamin (late), Anne Porter and Sue Sutton. Also in attendance were Park and Recreation Director Kathy Pawlenko, Township Supervisor Liaison Ryan Gallagher and Supervisor Jennifer Dix.
Call to Order: Mr. Levine called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM.
Approval of Minutes: Ms. Porter moved to approve the notes from the April 2 meeting and the minutes of the regular meeting of March 5, 2014. Mrs. Sutton seconded and the motion passed 5-0.
Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road
(Mr. McMenamin arrived at this point.)
Attorney Ed Murphy was in attendance to review this plan for a 2700 square foot branch bank at 15 Swamp Road on a 30,000 square foot lot in the CC, Convenience Commercial Zoning District. Mr. Murphy explained that this parcel is located between the Newtown Plaza Shopping Center and Luk Oil service station. There is a residential dwelling at the site which will be removed. Zoning relief has been granted for parking size, impervious surface and directional signage.
Ms. Porter moved to recommend that the Board of Supervisors accept a fee in lieu of open space for Univest Bank, 15 Swamp Road. Mr. Joseph seconded and the motion passed 6-0.
Resident Margaret Chleboski said that there had been an article in the Newtown Advance discussing the County Municipal Open Space Program and she wanted to know whether the Park and Recreation Board has a plan to apply for the funds.
Mr. Levine explained that Newtown Township has been allocated $580,000. Use of the County Municipal Open Space Fund requires a Township match. At this time, through private fundraising by the Jason and Natalie Cohen family, about $60,000 has been raised for Noah’s Playground, an inclusive playground at Veterans Park. An application to the County for its match of approximately $180,000 will be submitted very shortly.
The Park and Recreation Board has outlined two other projects: adult outdoor fitness trails at Carl Sedia Park and Helen Randle Park. This will involve installation of outdoor adult fitness equipment made of similar materials to the playground at Roberts Ridge Park. The equipment is suitable for all adults, but will have a focus on senior fitness. The equipment will replace wooden fitness equipment which was removed some time ago; the trails and pads are already in place. The cost is expected to be about $65,000 for each park. For the match, Mr. Levine said that he already knows of a few corporate sponsors ready to commit $10,000 each.
Mrs. Chleboski said that she believed that residents would contribute generously to park projects if they were made aware of the needs and goals. She asked whether there is an opportunity to make donations on the Township Web site.
Mr. Levine said that the Township Web site does have information on donating to the parks. Many residents have planted trees or placed benches in parks in memory of family members and friends. The Township has also been successful in targeted fundraising for specific projects like the skate park and Noah’s Playground.
Mrs. Chleboski asked if there are any plans to add to the trail system or if any tennis courts would be added. She spoke about increased popularity of pickle ball, which is popular with older people and is played with simple, temporary modifications to tennis courts.
Mr. Levine said that the Board has been reviewing the trail map looking for places to make connections, where appropriate. Some locations are not appropriate either because of rights-of-way or private ownership, but suggestions for specific locations would be welcome. If residents are interested in seeing trails expanded, the board would be interested in examining the suggested locations. He noted that the MOSP needs to have intentions known and preliminary applications submitted by the end of the year. He also said that tennis courts had been removed from the Veterans Park plan when it was scaled back, to be completed in phases.
Mrs. Chleboski said she would have wanted to see a connection to Veterans Park from Eagle Road.
Mr. Levine said that the trail was to have extended from Eagle Road to the park in the original plan but had to be removed, first because of expense and second because of the large increase in impervious surface. The plan now calls for a re-enforced, mown grass trail.
Mrs. Dix said that there has been interest in extending a walking trail from the Durham Road side of Newtown Grant to Veterans Park.
Mr. Levine said that the Board could look into this, but reminded residents that this would involve private property. There are some informal trails through Newtown Grant’s common ground to the Township owned “library tract.”
Mrs. Dix asked about paving a trail through the PECO high tension line.
Mr. Levine said that he has spoken to PECO representatives who have stated that they “turn a blind eye” to residents’ use of the land for passive recreation but have not approved any paving or more formal use of the property. He did feel that PECO might be willing to meet with the Board to discuss this idea.
The Board briefly discussed the costs of paving trails. Mr. McMenamin said that he has been involved in other municipalities with park trails and knew that sometimes inexpensive materials, such as recycled asphalt and clam shells can be used. Trails do not require the same deep paving as roads, so he guessed it may cost about $100,000 to pave one mile of trail.
Mrs. Dix noted that the Township expects to collect fees for some new construction projects, which will be placed in the Park and Rec capital fund for use on recreation projects.
Mrs. Pawlenko reminded the residents that the budget has been very tight for many years and the Park and Rec Department has not kept up with capital improvements. The parks need bleachers, dugouts and signage. Helen Randle Park has needed paving for the lower parking lot and resurfacing of the basketball courts. The promised water line to the field has not been installed yet. The County funds are not available for maintenance and repair, so these items will have to come from the capital fund.
Mr. Levine said that the Park and Rec Board would be working on a list of capital projects and on a list for the MOSP program throughout the summer.
Mrs. Chleboski asked if the Board has a long term plan.
Mr. Levine said that the Board had a comprehensive park and recreation plan some years ago. That plan envisioned Veterans Park and active recreation at the Wiggins tract. The Board had a grant to update the plan but the Township budget did not have room for the matching funds, so the plan was not updated. The Open Space Comprehensive Plan was completed in 2009. That plan listed goals including conservation easements, but the owners of the properties where conservation easements might have been desirable have not been willing to place easements on their properties. During years of budget cuts, the list of projects and ideas has gotten longer and hopefully, with a larger capital budget from developers’ fees, some overdue projects can be addressed.
Mr. McMenamin mentioned he has advocated for more planting in the parks, but maintenance can be an issue. Although scout troops have been willing to plant for their Eagle projects, it is left to the overburdened Public Works department to maintain the plants and gardens.
Mr. Levine noted that the Board has been successful working with Council Rock North’s ACHIEVE program and Cemantha Guilian’s classes on maintenance projects at Clark Nature Center. A scout built the herb garden, and the CRN classes have been contributing to the ongoing maintenance. He said that Mrs. Pawlenko does keep a long list of ideas for Eagle Scout projects. The scouts must first come to this Board to discuss their plans then must get Supervisors approval, but the resulting projects have been very worthwhile. The Board is now trying to encourage projects requiring very little maintenance or seeking commitments from the scouts to keep their projects in good repair.
Mrs. Pawlenko noted that in addition to Boy Scout contributions, the American Legion and Little League have also stepped up to make some contributions in the parks. Mr. Casey from the American Legion has discussed helping with signage at Veterans Park and Little League has asked about replacing signs at Chandler Field.
Tom Hibbs of Lower Southampton said that he is working on a “rails to trails” project for the old Newtown/Fox Chase SEPTA line. He asked whether the Township would support his efforts.
Mr. Levine said that he did not think the line ran through Newtown Township at all, or if it did, it was in only small, isolated areas. The line runs from Newtown Borough to Middletown.
Resident Pam Fitzpatrick said that she would like to see the parks use vegetation rather than continue to have lawns. This would be good for the environment and also save the cost of mowing.
Mr. McMenamin said that he agreed that the parks could use rain gardens and vegetative swales to help with stormwater management and also reduce maintenance time and costs.
Mrs. Dix noted that there is a different Board of Supervisors in place now and the Park and Recreation Board might find more support for its budget than in past years. She felt confident that the new Board sees the benefit of investing in the community.
Neil Salamandre of Council Rock Lacrosse said that he would like to work with the Park and Recreation Board to raise awareness of the sport and promote it in the Township. He has spoken to Mrs. Pawlenko about boosting resident participation by holding clinics and demonstrations at community events. He will visit the camps this summer and try to partner with the Park and Rec Department where possible.
Mrs. Pawlenko said that she is happy to work with Mr. Salamandre on promoting interest in the sport among Township residents. She noted that it is important that fields are allocated to Township residents and taxpayers first. She has tried to match field use with resident participation as much as possible. Lacrosse is played at Staples field, which is somewhat isolated, but it will now have some use at Veterans Park, where it will be more visible. She said that at Earth Day, CRUSA (soccer) partnered with the Department by providing an inflatable to promote the organization’s visibility. She suggested that Mr. Salamandre look for similar partnership opportunities at community events.
Mr. Gallagher said that at a recent Board of Supervisors meeting he was appointed Park and Recreation Board liaison. He hopes to attend the meetings regularly and be as supportive as possible of the Board’s efforts in the community. He said that the Township’s budget has been impacted by the loss of Lockheed Martin, making it difficult to budget for recreation, but he was optimistic that the economy is changing for the better and the Board will be more supportive of recreation spending in coming years. He shared an idea for a display of flags surrounding the POW flag at the entrance to Veterans Park.
Mrs. Pawlenko said she would share this with Mr. Casey and the American Legion. The Legion works closely with the Boy Scouts; this might interest both organizations as a possible future project.
Mr. Levine noted that this open discussion has covered the items on the regular agenda, so he moved on to liaison reports.
Environmental Advisory Council: Mrs. Fitzpatrick reported that the EAC held an environmental forum on renewable energy in April, partnering with the Park and Recreation department on registration and promotion. It was a very well attended event. The EAC also partnered with the Park and Rec Department to have a station at Earth Day for bird houses to promote Bird Town. Through donations of lumber from Lumbermen Associates and cutting and assembling work from CR South’s woodworking class, 75 birdhouses were available. Older children built the birdhouses from kits of wood pre-cut by the CRS students and younger children decorated and painted already assembled birdhouses. The EAC looks forward to other partnership activities with the Park and Rec Board.
Mr. Levine urged the EAC to help the Park and Rec Board by reviewing the Clark Nature Center Stewardship Plan completed by the Heritage Conservancy. There might be some projects in the report which could be used to promote sound environmental practices.
Newtown Creek Coalition: Mrs. Sutton reported that the Coalition is preparing a five year strategic plan. It has submitted a grant application for revitalizing the Newtown Commons and is sponsoring a clean-up day on May 17 at 9:00 AM behind First National Bank.
Park and Recreation Director’s Report
Mrs. Pawlenko reported that revenue is up $2000 this year, but noted that this does not include camp fees which are owed by parents who elected to pay the deposit only, with the balance due at the end of May. Camp enrollment is good. Camp Beechtree will be at Shir Ami this year, where the facilities include a playground and some wading pools. St. Andrew’s Church has been featuring the camp advertisements in the Church Bulletin.
There has been a large increase in participation in all recreation programs, especially in Adult Special Interest programs. Program Director Kathleen Kimble has been very successful with programs about gardening and organic food preservation.
Mrs. Pawlenko shared photographs of the daffodils planted with a grant from Bucks Beautiful, Earth Day and the very successful “Touch a Truck” class.
Ms. Porter moved to adjourn at 8:30 PM. Mr. McMenamin seconded and the motion passed 6-0
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary