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Pocket Park Moves Ahead, with Neighborhood Input

Benches are nixed, new plantings are a go.

 

A pocket park proposed by Maplewood resident and former Mayor Fred Profeta is moving forward -- with some changes, after Profeta met with neighbors who expressed reservations about the plan. 

Profeta first presented the idea at a January Township Committee meeting, offering to pay $20,000 of the costs of designing and building the park in a small wooded area behind Jefferson School.

However, after hearing of some concerns from neighbors in the area, Profeta agreed to meet with a group of residents of Brook Lane, Beach Place, Brookside Drive, and Durand Road on March 3 to gather input. As a result, Profeta said he had made some changes and alterations to his proposal.

Parts of the plan that would remain include the removal of invasive species and addition of native species of plantings, and resurfacing the existing path -- both of which Profeta told neighbors were conditions of his donation.

What's out? Benches (neighbors said they would encourage loitering teens), the concept of adding "light recreation" to the space, and the originally proposed name of 'Brook Park.'

"I believe everyone at the meeting was generally happy with those proposals, as was I," said Brook Lane resident Gina Patterson, a spokesperson for the neighbors. "Of course, I hope that the area will maintain its natural feel and that any new plantings will be easily maintained, given the town's limited resources."

She said resurfacing was a major need, especially after damage from Hurricane Sandy. She also mentioned drainage problems that need to be addressed.

"We all agreed that benches or any other type of seating are off the table," Patterson said. "I was very concerned about people loitering...I think this partly alleviates concerns about noise, littering and rowdy teenagers."  

Lighting is still an area of some controversy. Patterson said that while some of the neighbors are staunchly opposed to adding any lighting, she would be in favor of some "subtle" lighting to improve safety, as long as it wasn't intrusive.

Profeta said he was considering lampposts similar in size to the gaslamps in South Orange, but not gas powered. He said the lights would not shine directly into homes and might be put on timers.

As for the name, Profeta agreed not to call the area a "park," which some neighbors thought would send the wrong message.

"The idea is not to characterize the area as a destination, but rather as an area to be traversed," Profeta explained. "A good name may be 'Brook Path,' which is the way it was referred to many years ago."

He said the group also discussed adding a small walking path along the brook itself, so that people can observe the water without disturbing the plantings.

Profeta said he has the enthusiastic support of Jefferson School Principal Susan Grierson, who discussed student projects such as restocking the brook with small fish. Members of the Maplewood Garden Club also are interesting in participating with choosing plantings. Maintenance of the area will continue to be the responsibility of the township's Department of Public Works.

Overall, Profeta said, the meeting was "cordial" and residents appreciated the chance to offer feedback.

"I do have an overall concern with private funds being used to drive public projects and I am a bit wary of how this process is being carried out," said Patterson. "I want to make sure that the process is transparent and that the neighbors' needs and wishes are taken into account as plans are clarified." 

Diane Fish March 14, 2013 at 01:38 PM
I would like to see a trash can placed near the bridge. There was one there at one time. Diane Fish
John Harvey March 14, 2013 at 04:36 PM
Nice work, Fred! It seems like this is a great example of collaboration where you and the residents both considered the needs of the other - mutuality at play. Hopefully, it can serve as a case study for the TC for future change. Collaboration isn't simply getting together but the ability to listen to learn and a willingness to compromise. Nice work - John
Amie Herman March 14, 2013 at 05:58 PM
I live on Brook Lane and think it is magical! I am happy to hear that a balance of needs have been taken into consideration. I think the idea of careful and sensitive beautification and improvement of the wooded area, which is traversed and enjoyed by many, without making it a park like 'landing place' (with benches and significant lighting) is ultimately truer to the the character of this amazing and special little oasis by the Brook.
Fred R. Profeta, Jr. March 14, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Thank you Amie. That is the design going forward, so I think you'll be pleased. Hope to see you at the next meeting of residents. Thanks Lee and John for your support. It's always helpful. And Diane, I agree with you, but there is a school of thought that trash cans tend to overflow and end up creating a littered landscape. We need some more expert opinion on that score.
Kent Fairfield March 17, 2013 at 10:03 PM
This sounds like the plan is evoving in a really constructive way. Thank you a lot, Fred, for your initiative and generous offer. Having known Fred for decades, I am not surprised that he is helping this process move forward but in no way is ramming anything through without thorough consultation and collaboration. Since I walk our dog through the path two or three times a day, I'd love to see it enhanced and beautified with natural features. And thank you all for your thoughtful concern.

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