Franklin talks revitalization of pond area

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Concerned after the loss of youth football in the Franklin Pond Park area, Franklin’s mayor and council discussed the revitalization of the park to encourage more activity within the borough.

After switching from the North Jersey Youth Football League to the Morris County Midget Football League, Wallkill Valley youth football teams were unable to continue playing home games at the pond due to the undersized field. The football teams now play their home games at Hardyston’s Wheatsworth Park facility, but Mayor Crowley and his council are looking to ensure the future of Franklin recreation.

Working with the recreation committee and borough engineer, a plan to revamp the pond was discussed at Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting.

The first step in this hypothetical plan, Borough Administrator Jim Kilduff said, is to pave all roadways in the pond area and install parking spaces. The base bid for paving all dirt and gravel roadways, repaving existing concrete, and adding 170 new parking spaces is close to $257,000. An added parking lot lighting option would cost $72,000 and 1,000 linear feet of walking paths would cost $12,000.

While the overall rehabilitation of the park needs more than paving work, Kilduff believes paving will make a visible first impression and logical first step.

Councilman Mark Zschack raised a concern about paving being the priority. “Does it make sense to do the paving first?” he asked. His main concern is that the borough doesn’t spend over $340,000 paving roads to a park where a basketball won’t bounce on the courts because of cracks.

Recreation committee member Joseph Martinez addressed the favorability of the plan. “The pond is one of the main amenities that we have for this community and we need to start investing in it,” he said. While the borough may have lost football for now, the park is still used for soccer, baseball and softball. With minimal work, he added, the existing football field could be used for lacrosse and field hockey.

“We need to start bringing people into this town to help revitalize this town,” he said.

Also mentioned was the possibility of a paved track around the complex for walking or running, much like Hamburg and Hardyston have done with their park facilities. “Residents should not have to leave their community to engage in these activities,” Martinez said.

As a father of children in the area, Martinez also sees one more downfall of visiting neighboring towns to use a park facility — loss of revenues to local businesses. When a family goes to Wheatsworth Park to play, they aren’t likely to drive back to a Franklin business to eat, he said. They are going to go wherever is closest.

“I think this is a good plan,” Crowley said, “though I think it will take years to do.”

For now, the idea will go back to the recreation committee, who will draft a revised plan for the council to consider at a later date.

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