Councilman Dardia penned a long letter in the 7/15 edition of The Leader in which three of the seven paragraphs were devoted to an attack upon a prior plan to add necessary playing fields at Tamaques Park. The remainder lauded the Mayor’s current plan to construct a sports complex behind Edison School. I’d like to respond.
Had Councilman Dardia waited until after the Edison area residents’ first meeting with the Mayor, Council members, Board of Ed members, Recreation Commission officers, and representatives of the design firm, he would have heard the Mayor and her colleagues talk about the Tamaques plan. But of the roughly 20 speakers opposing the plan and offering other ideas, not one mentioned Tamaques. Rather, the concept of an alternate plan that would improve existing and construct new fields throughout the town and obviate the major flaws in the current plan was offered.
The Councilman failed to mention that the current plan will cost $18.2 million. He was silent on the fact that their plan involves installing 9 acres of plastic grass infilled with crumb rubber which will effectively cover the entire huge grassy area behind Edison School, and that about three of those acres won’t even be used for playing fields but are necessary merely to complete the design.
I don’t see in his letter any mention of the stadium lights which will surround the project area, which is a stone’s throw from numerous homes on three sides. The complex will be available for use until well after dark, which will result in sky glow from the lights; excessive noise from possible PA systems, whistles and yelling; loitering and littering. He does mention parking and safety as issues, but there being nowhere in the area to add significantly to the parking lots at Edison, the designer suggests that the parking lot at the high school a half mile away may be used. Inadequate parking means heavy on street parking, some on streets with no sidewalks.
We were told at the meeting that Edison was selected because, unlike the other open areas in town, it’s not Green Acres – which means it doesn’t have be open to groups outside of Westfield. But when asked whether the town would make a commitment that outside sports teams would not be permitted to use the complex, there was silence. And when it was suggested that the huge open area behind Roosevelt School could be used for a new field or fields and a town official was asked if that was considered, the answer was “No”.
$18.2 million is an enormous expenditure and there are more efficient and “greener” ways to invest those monies in the town’s future. The alternate plan referred to above, in which the needed additional field capacity is achieved much more cheaply and without the sole reliance on plastic grass/rubber and stadium lights in one huge complex, is far preferable to the plan under consideration.