Sunday, April 19, 2009

Hearing on Recreation Land Design - 4/16/2009

Public Hearing to gather information on design of Recreation area at Newlins & Richmond Roads - 6:30 PM

Township Manager Rick Schnaedter explained that the Township is applying for a parks planning grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for the 53 acre Township owned parcel at the intersection of Newlins and Richmond Roads.  A hearing to solicit public input (what the community wants for recreation) is a part of the application. 

In 2003 the Township had a feasibility study done for both recreation and a public works garage.   Schnaedter showed a map of the area.  It shows power lines running through the parcel.  He noted that there are restrictions for what can and cannot be done near power lines.  Schnaedter pointed to the area towards the east side of the parcel that the 2003 feasibility study suggested for the public works garage. 

Schnaedter said, too, that the Township conducted two recreation surveys (the most recent was in 2006).  The grant will allow a consultant to visit the site, discuss recreation uses with the "various organizations, the public, the Board of Supervisors, the Rec Board and develop a plan" for the site that will be similar to the central park "that we are so proud of."  He then asked for audience suggestions.

Public Comments:

Chris Henry - Forks Township Athletic Association (FTAA) Baseball Commissioner - said that there is a definite need for baseball fields.  He said that they broke a record for sign-ups this year and that at this point they are using retention basins.  He said that at the lower age levels where they had five to six teams last year, they have eight this year and anticipate 10 teams next year.  He said too, that there is a need for more lacrosse fields.  If the Forks Elementary School expands, they will lose the use of two fields.  Henry said that they need four more fields with 60 ft. diamonds.

Ty Corallo - FTAA Softball Commissioner - said that there are a record number of teams on the fields this year and that, at the lower age levels (5-6 year olds and 7-8 year olds) they are trying to get 10 teams onto one field.  T-Ball is using Braden Park but there are no defined diamonds there, and no backstops, etc.  At yet another level there are 12 teams trying to get on three more fields.  He asked for two additional fields or that the fields at Braden be developed.  He said that there is increasing interest at the lower age levels and that the fields are so used that the teams cannot get practice time.  He added that the Community Park facilities are fantastic and that tournaments spread goodwill around the area - not to mention, bring in dollars to the Township.  Tonight the Community Park is packed.

Chris Henry said that there are 25-27 teams using five baseball fields.  The Winchester field and the 90 ft. diamond at Lafayette/Meco are being used.

Jeff Braido - said that he grew up in Forks Township and has seen the Township grow since he moved back four years ago.  He said that there is definitely a need for recreational space.  His own kids are getting involved in sports and more fields are needed.  Braido said that he lives on Crown Drive in Vista Estates.  His backyard up against the (Newlins/Richmond) Township land and he is "a little worried" about the location of the public works building - as drawn - near existing houses.  He suggested it be moved nearer to Newlins or nearer to Richmond.  He is concerned about the noise and traffic in and out of the building, especially early in the morning.  Braido said that he is in favor of as many athletic fields as possible to give kids as much opportunity as possible in their younger years. 

Chairman Howell asked how the fields might be multipurpose - what sports can share the same acreage?  He said that there is pressure on recreation land and at (what developers are paying) $80,000 an acre it is "out of site" for the Township to buy more property.  Corallo said that at the Community Park there are practice fields that straddle each other but the fields get over-used and because of the heavy use, the grass  cannot "get back up."  Corallo said too, that the FTAA is united in stating that the Township needs more types of fields.

Jim Wideman (D write-in candidate for Supervisor and former Planning Commission member) - said that he lives "next door" to the Township land and that he would prefer a more leisurely park with a pavilion, trees, and a walking path - something more recreational.  Wideman said that the Community Center/Park is almost all organized sports and that there is "a large senior community that would love to have a park - to take their families to..."  As to the public works garage, he suggested that there are alternative sites in the industrial areas more suited to trucks.

Howell asked (FTAA) about the recreation land as open dusk to dawn or is it envisioned with night lights?  The FTAA just wants a place for kids.  Supervisor Nicholas remarked that it's very expensive to operate the lights.  Supervisor Miller said that right now there are only two fields under lights.

Nicholas asked if the public works garage siting is allowed under the recreational grant application.  Schnaedter said that the area for the garage would not be included in the planning.  Nicholas added that she, too, thought there are other locations for the garage.

Howell said that the current DPW site is now too small and is poorly laid out.  Schnaedter offered that one of its disadvantages is its proximity to the Delaware River.  Zoning Officer Tim Weis said that the elevation change on the property is 50 or so feet and that public works vehicles are stored off-site.  DPW Director Mark Roberts said that they are stored in five different locations.

Supervisor Chuss said that the 2003 study recommended a detention basin on the (recreation) site.

Roberts said that seven to eight acres are needed for a new garage. 

Weis said that the grant application is to look at what is feasible for the site.  Miller offered that the best land is along Newlins Road and that because of the slope, the other parts would have to be terraced.  He said, too, that URDC designed the Community Park and it is one of the best community parks in the Lehigh Valley.

Howell asked if the grant would consider all of the Township's recreation land/needs.  Schnaedter answered that the grant is just for the development of this specific site.  He added, however, that the input about what is needed, for example at the Braden Park and at the five acres behind the Community Center, will help in planning, to "take some of the athletic burden off of this site."

Chuss said that he would like an overall recreation plan in place so that it could be incorporated by the consultant into what can be done at the Newlins/Richmond site.  And, he said that it would be nice to have the Comprehensive Plan (and the recreation plan) in place before the study is begun.

Schnaedter said that Towamensing got at $50,000 grant to develop a 43 acre park.  There is a 50% match.  The application deadline is April 22nd and it will be eight months until an answer is received.  After that, the process will take some time.  Howell said that there will be ample time for more public comment.

Nicholas said that a pool was number one on both Township recreation surveys and she thinks land should be set aside for one - even if the land is used as fields in the near term.  She also wants volley ball courts.

Supervisor Egolf said that at the Monday night Parks & Recreation Committee meeting, football, soccer, and lacrosse were represented.  He said that every outdoor sport is vying for the fields.

Howell asked that an inventory of all the detention ponds be taken to see which are suitable for other activities - "anything from a dog park to lacrosse."

Schnaedter thanked everyone for coming and the hearing was adjourned.

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