BERKELEY – Berkeley will pursue a Green Acres grant for possible projects at Veterans Park and Eastern Boulevard, in efforts to upkeep and expand the fields for year-round use, including possibly installing new turf and striping it for multiple sports.
The $800,000 grant application asks for the state funds for a field at Veterans Park, to convert it “to an all-purpose surface field,” said Mayor Carmen Amato. The township was required to have a public hearing to solicit comments on what projects the township should apply for, and at the hearing the mayor mentioned that leading up to this idea were discussions and feedback from the leagues and organizations who use these fields.
Officials said that when the parks were built, they were used seasonally, but these days sports such as soccer, field hockey and lacrosse have meant expanded use of the township fields in order to schedule games and meet demand.
“For the first time a many years the NJDEP has opened up the green acres grant program,” said Amato. “We have submitted an application for funding of $800,000 to convert a field at Veterans Park to an all-purpose surface field. This will assist the Township to handle the volume of field requests we receive for football & soccer. The field will be lined for those two sports as well as lacrosse.”
Though the application focuses on Veterans Park, the township is also looking at similar upgrades for the Eastern Soccer Complex, and the option of low-maintenance loans awarded through Green Acres.
“Veterans Park made the most sense because it’s centrally located, has ample parking, rest room facilities’ and lighting,” said the mayor. “It is also adjacent to Central Regional High School, which would enable the high school to use it as well.”
At the hearing, public comment included asking about low interest loans and an expansion of Jake’s Branch, a park in the county park system. Amato responded to the comment that Jake’s Branch would be a county project, not under the town’s purview. Another public question asked how the acceptance of Green Acres funds could amend the access to the site, requiring it to be open to any group since it would be partially state funded. Township officials replied that the use would be open to the township and its groups first.
Amato said the plan was a way to manage and preserve recreation, saying Veterans Park was “the crown jewel” of the township park system.
“The fields over there are tired we need to take measures to improve veterans park.
There’s spring soccer, fall soccer, so you have to be proactive,” he said. “Nothing ventured nothing gained.”
The grant process is now underway. The mayor said that should the funding be granted, the new field will be operational in 2018.