There are compelling, well-researched, and professionally vetted reasons why Edison was chosen to be the first step in a multi-fields plan. Chief among them are the benefits to the school and student athletes that can’t be realized at Tamaques, as well as the ability to solve for the largest capacity increase in the shortest amount of time.
Some have suggested the Town begins with turf fields in the wooded area of Tamaques that was a former dumping ground, off of Lamberts Mill Road. That provides two challenges: One is the more complicated nature of the Tamaques site, which would need to be leveled and cleared, unlike Edison where a flat, open surface currently exists.
The second is that Tamaques Park is a NJ Green Acres facility, which means it cannot be reserved exclusively for Westfield residents and must be open to anyone in the state. Other NJ Green Acres fields in Westfield that are subject to statewide use include Clark Park (the land adjacent to Roosevelt Intermediate School), Gumbert Park, Memorial Fields, and Sycamore Field.
The property at Edison School is owned by the Board of Education and is not a NJ Green Acres facility, which allows its use to be exclusively for Westfield residents and leagues to help solve our long-standing capacity issue.
For these reasons and the many others discussed over the past 2+ years, this administration will pursue additional field improvements – including artificial turf, improved grass fields, and lights at Tamaques, as well as the exploration of natural grass upgrades and maintenance as additive field space in other locations – only after Edison Fields is approved.
To reiterate, in the absence of expanding field capacity, it would not be fiscally prudent to spend resources on improving and maintaining grass fields, which are exceedingly difficult to protect from overuse in a municipal setting. Such protection inevitably requires significant usage limitations, which is counter to a key objective of this project. This determination has been informed by experiences from other municipalities, as well as various pilot tests in Westfield, which have proven that spending dollars on grass field maintenance without the ability to reduce playing hours is not a good use of funds.
If the referendum passes and we are able to proceed with the Edison Fields Project, we anticipate prioritizing Tamaques as a next step by assessing the recreation potential of the seven acres in the park adjacent to Lamberts Mill Road that were previously a dumping ground. Plans under consideration for that area would potentially include a permanent ice rink, pickleball courts, multipurpose athletic fields, additional parking, and a new entrance and exit off of Lamberts Mill Road to reduce vehicular traffic in the park to make it safer for pedestrians, bikers, and sports team participants. That assessment has been put on hold pending the result of the Edison Fields referendum.
New turf fields (with lights) at Tamaques, in combination with Edison, would provide us with sufficiently expanded capacity to next develop a long-term plan for maintaining well-constructed grass fields that could sustain appropriate hours of play.