Solebury hears need for parks and recreation
Immediate needs include three to five sports areas
A dearth of recreational fields summed up Solebury’s park and recreation master plan update presented Nov. 7 to the board of supervisors.
Suggesting the township ultimately will need 15 fields, the park and recreation committee advised that presently there is a need for five fields.
That conclusion was quickly challenged by Supervisor Paul Cosdon.
“In 2011 Dudley Rice, park and rec chair, delivered a presentation. At that time, no new fields were needed. Now, two years later with a population that has remained stable, we are in need of five fields?” Cosdon asked.
Rice responded that in a review of the 2006 master plan, initiated a year and a half ago, the study was based not on population data, but rather on the number of events occurring on each respective field in the township.
“Too many events on existing fields generated excessive damage requiring increased maintenance at increased costs despite youth organizations’ participation in the maintenance of the fields,” he said.
Park and rec board member Matt Hayden interjected that the real need was for three practice fields.
“We have property sitting idle that could satisfy our needs. Currently, 317 township events occur on school property,” Hayden said. “Currently 110 acres of open land in North Pointe and Solebury parks earmarked for parks and recreation are not being utilized. What we are hearing from the community is ‘level the land and let us play.’”
Supervisor Ed McGahan responded, “I agree, 30 acres near North Pointe could be converted at minimal expense. The problem is funding; we have the mechanism to secure land but no funding mechanism to do something with the land.”
“We are spending a lot of money on field maintenance,” said Supervisor Jim Searing, but we need to address the needs of all ages of our population. We are estimating $300,000-$500,000 per field running our total expenditures into the millions.. That’s a huge number for the township.”
Hayden responded, “Our sense from the community is that it is willing to do whatever it takes. No one is asking for a $300,000 field. However, we need practice fields to remove pressure from the playing fields, noting that Peter Simone of Simone Collins, landscape consultants for the township, recommended applying for grants. Park and rec needs the energy and commitment of the board of supervisors.”
“It’s important to dimensionalize,” Searing replied. “What can we do to make a difference now?” Supervisor Paul Cosdon countered, “We have a good idea of what they need. We must identify where we can come up with the money through grants and the township budget.”
“We are committed to secure that information to take the next step,” Hayden responded, “but it needs to be a collaborative effort with the supervisors.”
Township Manager Dennis Carney sought to provide direction. “The first thing you need to secure a grant is a tangible plan before you can apply.”
“Yes, we need a plan,” said Rice, “but a plan is tied to a location so the board of supervisors needs to decide where it wants to be. Costs vary significantly depending on the designated location.”
Resident Malcolm Crooks pointed out that 80 acres of Roeser Park have not been designated as to use and perhaps a discussion with the township planning commission would be a good place to start.
Faced with the need to address both adult and youth recreational requirements, park and rec adopted two approaches: a survey of the adult population and an assessment of the current youth program participation including field utilization.
The township has three parks for passive and active recreation: Pat Livezy, Laurel and Canal, which service approximately 11,000 residents. A 2012 resident survey regarding park and recreation interests identified parks and recreation as the number three need in the township.
Among park and rec’s recommendations for the immediate future: initiate improvements to Solebury Park and identify an interim plan for its use; develop a comprehensive map of walking trails; explore possible appropriate uses for Ingham Springs; identify feasible use of North Pointe Park and complete improvements; identify a suitable site for a dog park; create a Solebury Day community event and educate the community on the benefits of a strong youth recreational program, engage the community in design work and in organizing a committee for funding.
Long-term objectives include establishing Hal Clark Park as an access point to the Delaware canal and river and construction of a community center.
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