DeHart Field will likely remain closed through the end of the year because of a fungal infection that has damaged newly replanted sod, according to Township Engineer Thomas Malavasi.
“It was a combination of moisture and heat,” said Malavasi. The field was re-sodded this spring, and regular watering plus the summer's extreme heat caused the infection to spread before the new, young turf was established.
The sod will be patched and the field will be fertilized and aerated, said Malavasi.
"It had always been the plan to try to get the field reopened by the fall but to assume that it would not be able to be opened," said Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan.
DeHart Park has been the subject of much controversy over the last few years. At one time, the town had received a grant to install an artificial turf field, to which some residents were opposed. The question was put to a referendum, and the artificial turf option was defeated. The field officially re-opened in December of 2010 with natural grass after a $1.3 million renovation performed by Turco Golf of Suffern, NY.
The township later discovered that Turco incorrectly installed the sod. Drainage has also been an ongoing issue on the field.
“This was a brutal season for all fields in the area,” Malavasi said. He noted that the township’s organic turf expert, who has been regularly inspecting the field, said it was in better shape than some in nearby towns.
Local community sports leagues, including South Mountain Soccer and Cougar Soccer, will face challenges finding fields to play on this season. The scramble will be complicated by the fact that New Waterlands Field in South Orange will be shut down for renovations this year.
“We will do the best we can, but we are already seeing scheduling issues,” said Recreation Director Keith Knudsen.