In a series of extensive discussions, the Englewood Cliffs Borough Council explored a wide range of proposals to rejuvenate local parks and facilities, including the possibility of introducing pickleball, a sport gaining nationwide popularity. However, divisions emerged over renovation costs, the selection of turf versus grass for fields, and the interpretation of survey results.
The council convened on June 29th to discuss a comprehensive park improvement plan. The potential renovation of Wootyfield Park served as the center stage, with five different proposals, the first of which was valued at $5.2 million. It envisioned replacing existing facilities, new sod and clay for fields, an upgraded playground, enhanced fencing, safety netting, improved pathway lighting, seating, and repositioning the basketball court to create space for a dog park.
The decision between natural and synthetic turf for the sports facilities sparked intense debate. Some council members expressed concern about the cost and practicality of maintaining sod fields due to high traffic and limited regeneration time. Others acknowledged the benefits of sod, but pointed out the necessity for continual maintenance. “I can’t sit up here and say, sod can’t be maintained and it’s not a practical solution. It just, it’s going to require attention for sure,” one member said.
The plans also highlighted the need for extensive repairs at Veterans Park due to a collapsed slope, discussions around improving local security, and addressing potential child safety issues in collaboration with the police chief. Several council members echoed the need for more detailed cost estimates and information before committing to any major changes.
Another significant issue involved the consideration of state requirements for high-density housing units, raising the possibility of parkland being repurposed for this use. The council also grappled with the fallout from a previous plan, the ‘client-client plan,’ alleged to have been scuttled without public involvement.
While no decisions were finalized in the meeting, a proposal to construct a new playground with safety features and ADA-compliant, inclusionary elements for children of varying abilities, costing around $600,000, was widely discussed. Another point of contention was the suggestion to relocate a basketball court, add a dog park, and include pickleball striping on basketball courts and a tennis court.
The public’s involvement in the process, as reflected in the survey results, led to further disputes. Council members questioned the validity of the survey, with some arguing the total renovation costs had been misrepresented or not fully disclosed. These disagreements hint at the complexity of the renovation process, which involves not only infrastructure changes but also a careful negotiation of public opinion and local politics.
In the backdrop of these discussions, concerns about adequate maintenance, coordination with neighboring districts, and potential bid invitations for the park renovation project were also voiced. The council is expected to continue its deliberations in future meetings, aiming for a decision by June 2023, followed by design development and procurement, and an anticipated eight-month construction phase.