After hearing proposals about ways to improve to C.O. Johnson Park, the Byram Township Council agreed to make the park a priority.
But council members stressed the improvements will take years and phases to complete.
Mike Piga and Denis Keenan of French and Parrello Associates, an engineering and environmental services firm based in Wall Township, gave the presentation at the council’s March 6 meeting.
Officials agreed to discuss further the following ideas: building a new recreation building on a flatter terrain, moving the concession stand, and putting in a dog park across the street.
Piga and Keenan said they will work with Byram to rank priorities and discuss the next steps.
Piga said their plan included:
● A new recreation building with meeting rooms, restrooms, and locker rooms
● A level location appropriate for senior citizens’ events that includes handicap access and ample parking
● A prefab shed for storage, with each sport having its own shed
● A new, pre-engineered concession stand in the center of the park
● Three men’s bathrooms and three women’s bathrooms by the fields for easier access
● Nature trails of a quarter, third, and half a mile through the wetlands, including an education element about the species and plants found there (permits would need to be secured through the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection)
● A dog park across the street, separated from sports players, and with 12 parking spaces
A chance to make money
Mayor Alexander Rubenstein said the council would discuss with local sporting groups what they would need from the new recreation building. The concession stand should get done sooner than later, he said.
Councilman Raymond Bonker said he liked having the dog park location across the street because it would intersect with one of the township’s major trails, Tamarack Trail. He raised concerns about the township’s ability to get a permit through the Highlands Council for the dog park and for moving the water basin.
Township manager Joseph Sabatini a timber harvest was just completed west of the proposed dog park. He recommended a slight shift of the dog park to the newly cleared location.
Councilman Jack Gallagher said he would like to see Byram host tournaments and make money for the township.
Councilman Harvey Roseff said he had pushed for a landscape architect to be involved in their discussions, and they had a good approach to a park design. But he said he was concerned about the cost because the township had not given French and Parrello a budget. He said the township had to allocate funding and implement the project in stages. He noted that Byram is constructing a new a municipal building that will also increase taxes.
Bonker said the park renovations will happen over ten years and gather many different cost estimates along the way. They are at the beginning of a long process with vague numbers, he said.
He said Byram must focus on what they want to get accomplished based on feedback through Greener by Design, which will survey residents.
The building sub-committee chair, Scott Yappen, asked about grant funding in past projects. Keenan said French and Parrello had been able to get $300,000 through Green Acres and $200,000 through a Morris County project.