Surveys show that Byram residents are most interested in walking paths and a dog park.
Township manager Joseph Sabatini reviewed general dog park requirements when the township council met with the Open Space Committee and Recreation Committee on Sept. 8 to prioritize projects: at least one acre and preferably three, trees, benches, maybe a gazebo, shade, one section for big dogs and another for small dogs, multiple entrances, and double gates.
Suggested locations ranged from areas around the Tamarack Greenway, open space acquisitions and foreclosure areas in the vicinity of C.O. Johnson Park, and Neil Gylling Memorial Park. Sabatini said the river and wetlands on both sides might limit use of the Neil Gylling field. However, because it was located across from the municipal complex, maintenance and enforcement would be easier, he said.
Councilman Raymond Bonker said that, in a survey of 750 residents asking about 11 possible projects, the dog park was the second most-wanted amenity after walking areas at C.O. Johnson Park.
Scott Yappen of the Recreation Committee said the dog park came in first in the Greener by Design survey, with 30 percent of the vote. Scott Olson of the Open Space Committee countered that 40 percent of people said they would never use a dog park. After some discussion, Mayor Alexander Rubenstein agreed to ask Hudson Farm about selling a few acres to the township for a dog park.
● Walking paths: Olson said walking paths was one of the top preferences from the survey. He suggested a handicap-accessible path with exercise equipment, like chin-up bars and stair steps. Bonker said engineer Corey Stoner’s preliminary design estimate was $100,000.
● Other C.O. Johnson improvements: Yappen said sports teams would use C.O. Johnson for fundraising tournaments and sectionals if it had an upgrade of lights and bathrooms. Sabatini said some sports teams have already held fundraisers at the park, which require coordination, maintenance, management, and the cooperation of other programs.
Earl Riley of the Open Space Committee said Field #8 was a great field with drainage problems. Stoner said that, because of budget constraints, they did not install drainage, and the onsite “clay side” top soil used does not drain. In hindsight, he said, they should have brought in better material and more sand, and added drainage to the field.
Rubenstein said Sabatini had already provided six options to fix the field: de-compaction, a water wick, trenching drains, reconditioned top soil, reconstruction, or turf replacement.
Councilwoman Cris Franco said she was concerned that Field #8 was over-allocated with football and soccer. Rubenstein said with numerous soccer fields around town, the township would need to balance what it can afford “as sporting teams ebb and flow.” He said the township should give “reasonable access to really good facilities” that are “well taken care of.”
Sabatini said soccer has more space than it needs, since the program has shrunk, and that teams have access to space in Netcong.
Franco said she would also like to see a pavilion and an extended, shaded seating area added to the field house.