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Controversy Overshadows Field of Dreams Tour

Only people who question the mayor-backed turf proposal came to examine the school fields.

About 20 residents spent their Sunday afternoon touring the football fields and more at and high schools. 

The walking tour, initially conceived by members of both sides of the debate over the contentious Fields of Dreams proposal, gave attendees an opportunity to see for themselves the condition of the schools' athletic facilities.

Notable in their absence were supporters of the project, which was a constant topic of conversation throughout the Sunday event. Most attendees expressed an interest in seeing the "other side" demonstrate the fields' reputed problems need by physically showing the problems and then describe in detail what would be done as part of the FOD plan. 

"I originally planned to attend this tour in the hopes that people would see that nothing has been done to maintain our important facilities for many, many years except patches and quick fixes," proposal supporter Chris Joyce said. "I decided not to participate in this tour because I felt that inferior and substandard conditions would be deemed acceptable by a self-proclaimed leader."

Resident Peter Bradley did not claim any sort of leadership position, but he offered his assessment of what the walkers saw.

"Today was meant to look at the conditions at the fields, the track and the fencing," he said. "I think people would agree what we see here is not so bad that we can't repair this.

"In fact, I think the Hills is in pretty good shape and we could fix this up cleanly with better fencing for a fraction of the [estimated $4.5 million] cost.  The track is in very good shape except for one or two places that might need repair. And the field, I don't think looks that bad at all. I think it could be fixed with some effort by a landscaper or someone who works with grass playing surfaces," Bradley went on. "I think we could repair this and have a good safe playing field, a good track and a good fence." 

Under the proposal, artificial turf fields would replace the existing grass football fields. Proponents also suggest adding modernized lights and refurbishing or replacing the track ovals. 

Concerns over financing, control and use of the facilities and quality of life effects for those who live closest to the fields are at the heart of the debate.

Julia Peterson March 27, 2012 at 11:10 AM
If it cost $325,000 to re-turf the currently existing turf field this year at Veterans (after flood damage, I think) and if Parsippany gets two additional fields, that will be a total of five. Most turf fields need re-carpeting after ten years. The turf covering is a petroleum product. So every ten years, the five fields might need a combined $1.5 million (at today's prices) to re-surface. And the price will go up each time.
Enough already March 27, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Everyone thinks they are an expert. Let the prefessionals do their work and analysis and then we can review/critique their work...please. I think it is time we did a full audit of all the Open Space money used in the past ten years for the purchase of historic properties and for historic preservation. Who decided which projects should get funding? Who benefitted from these purchases? Where did the fuding come from? It would also be interesting to see what is on everyone's wish list for the purchase of historic properties going forward and ask the same questions. A question to all.... why do we need to consider buying the Baldwin House??
Enough already March 27, 2012 at 12:57 PM
TJ, thanks for your response. I agree. I blew off a little too much steam too quickly. I am just getting fed up with all the phonies. All my kids graduated from the Hills. A lot of people worked really hard over the past 10 years to find a way to upgrade the fields and facilties at PHHS. Lots of time went into engineering studies to find solutions. I don't have the energy in me to jump into this effort. I applaud the people who are trying to find a solution. The main field has been re-graded and re-seeded several times. It has not worked. We had a major contributor a few years back who wanted to donate money to fund the project but it got stalled at the BoE and Town Council. Ask Mr. Crawford about that. Our fields are really bad. Even sport writers and referees over the years have joked about our fields. Bubble gum and bandaids have never worked. We need to move forward with a major upgrade and I hope the fields of dreams, or a significant portion of it, gets approved asap.
Tom Wyka March 27, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Enough A. - ask the Mayor. My understanding is that there was to be storage onsite of vehicles (EMS?) and public meeting rooms in the house as well as offices for a particular department. As far as public meeting rooms - as a former Scout Den leader and generally involved citizen - when the library is so booked - it's great to have more meeting space. It's really a shame that you find out about this so far after the fact - if you wanted to chime in.
TJ Ritter March 27, 2012 at 01:42 PM
@ Enough already I can definitely appreciate blowing off steam. That's why I have come to realize this is not the venue for me to do that and I have scars on my knuckles from the punching bag I use. HA! I heard about the donor several years ago and I also heard that they couldn't do it due to the “what you do for one high school you must do for the other policy” this town has. I think it is similar to the federal "separation of church and state" doctrine which was never written in any legal documents but stated in 1802 in a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists. I haven't seen any documentation in Parsippany that says we have to do the same for both high schools. If it is out there please let me know. We in Parsipanny are in a different situation than most school districts in Morris County with two high schools. The only other school district I can think of off the top of my head with two high schools is Denville. That being said, I can certainly appreciate and understand your point of view. The fields do need repair, especially the practice field at PHS. I just haven't seen the documentation out there that would allow people to make an informed decision. I may be for the project if I got the information I needed to make an informed decision that is not based on gut emotion. Take care. Informed decision-making comes from a long tradition of guessing and then blaming others for inadequate results. -Scott Adams
Chris March 27, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Tom, OK fair enough. I didn't realize that you were directing your question towards me about the OSF being "found money". I'll be happy to answer that as I see it. The OSF is a tax that already exists and we are all paying our share currently. Hence the emphasis on "NO NEW TAXES". It is meant to be used to purchase open space land, maintain or upgrade rec facilities and preserve historical properties. There are many guidelines to how and when the money can be used. We have used it most recently to purchase the Baldwin House. Last year almost $500,000 was spent out of the fund for Craftsman Farms. It has made improvements to many of our parks. Now many support using it for making capital improvements to the HS fields. If it falls within the guidelines of using it then it is not found money. I guess we'll know that when the State AG renders his opinion. I have no problem with using it to purchase the Baldwin House, continually funding Craftsman Farms, the Littleton School house and others, but why can't it be used for this project as well. This is one that will impact so many more of our residents than all the ones I mentioned combined. I may be off base but it just seems to me like a small group of people are saying..hey, stay out of my sand box.
Chris March 27, 2012 at 02:04 PM
TJ..fyi..Denville doesn't even have 1 HS. They are a K-8 district only. They're kids go to Morris Knolls, a regional HS.
Tom Wyka March 27, 2012 at 02:27 PM
It's everyone sandbox Chris. unfortunately not all folks care about the acquiring the sand. "Open Space" to me (and maybe I'm just crazy) is land up for grabs. Generally we're taking private parcels off the open market and reserving it for public use or environmental purposes (the term pervious is top of mind obviously). Last time I checked no one was threatening to build a condo farm on the school football fields. We are however designating some beautiful "zones of redevelopment" off the already flood prone Edwards Road - thanks to our clever, sharp, developer-friendly attorney rather than talking more acquisition. And I might add - Down stream from where the devastating flooding already occured. Maybe it's not related but it certainly calls into question our priorities. And that's precisely why a lot of us look at this whole thing as a legal perversion of the OST itself. Are you seeing my point yet? I could go on a little further about a specific lot near my home that effects my family's well being - but I don't have all the facts on that one yet. Once again - If the BOE asked me for another $20-30 a year or so in taxes - I'll gladly allow them to fulfill their responsibilities to our kids and turf all you want - at a minimum fix the damn fields anyhow. But that's me - right? The "Democrap" (as Mr. Brown calls me). The "tax and spend" liberal that others would spout.
TJ Ritter March 27, 2012 at 03:58 PM
@Chris Thanks for the heads up with Denville. I guess I meant the kids from denville can go to one of two high schools. Can you expand a little more on the “what you do for one high school you must do for the other policy" people seem to be talking about? Is there an ordinance or other written doc you can send me to that explains this? Thanks. TJ
Beth Bluj March 27, 2012 at 10:58 PM
To take a look how our fields fall short of those in surrounding towns, click on the link below: http://www.parsippanyfieldsofdreams.org/In_Stark_Contrast.php
Jennifer McNulty March 27, 2012 at 11:05 PM
Just curious how our towns compare to the same surrounding towns on walking and biking trails. Can I see the link to that analysis too?
Jennifer McNulty March 27, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Also, I think we should look at what cars our neighbors are driving and make sure we have exactly the same cars (or better). It is all about comparing ourselves to our neighbors. Great lessons for our children. If we need new fields then we need new fields. It shouldn't matter at all what any other town's fields look like. I could care less if they are playing on pavement or in a stadium bigger and better than MetLife Stadium. And for me personally this is not about whether we need the new fields or not, it is about who pays for repairs. This is a BOE issue and not a Township Open Space issue. All of this information should be presented to the BOE over and over again so that they can see the outrage from the parents and students in regards to the current status of the fields.
Tom Wyka March 27, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Beth - these are beautiful shots - and something to look forward to - but can a caption be added on the method of financing? That's the biggest issue.
Jennifer McNulty March 27, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I don't have any website to show pictures but I could easily link trail maps for you if you have any doubt to the facts I present. Here are the towns (fields) you present on that website as a comparison: Dover - no town maintained trails, Boonton - maintained trails in Tourne, Pyramid Mountain, Johanson Park, Griffith Park, Maser Park and Oak Rd Woods Hackettstown - Allamuchy SP, Stevens SP, Pequest WMA, Morris Canal, Roxbury - full listing here, http://www.roxburynj.us/documents/31/ROXBURY%20TRAILS%20PLAN.pdf Morristown - Jockey Hollow, Morristown NP, Lewis Morris, Loantaka, Sherman Hoffan Sanctuaries, Patriots Path, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, Washington Valley, Fort Nonsense, Speedwell and Deer Haven Park Mendham - 17 different parks with designated hikes, http://hikemendham.org/ Delbarton - private school, no comparison Chatham - they play at Cougar Field, a town field, it would be the same as us playing at Jannerone. But for comparison of trails The Great Swamp, Passaic River Park Livingston - 15 township properties with maintained trails in addition to 11 other properties with maintained trails by other entities Madison - Madison Rec Center, Memorial Park, Zuck Arboetum DePaul - private school Morris Catholic - private school Randolph - 7 specific parks with a full trail system that encompasses the entire town. http://www.randolphnj.org/parks_and_recreation/trail_system/ ALL OF THESE ARE NOT INCLUDING BIKING TRAILS OR BIKING LANES THROUGH THESE TOWNS.
Jennifer McNulty March 27, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Parsippany has 1 (ONE) township owned park with trails. There is also one county park with blazed trails. We are the largest town in Morris County and it is a shame and an embarrassment that a town of our size does not have any biking lanes, bike trails or many more miles of hiking trails for the residents.
Beth Bluj March 28, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Seems as though you want to see more hiking/biking trails in town - great idea. Why don't you call the mayor, set up a meeting, and present your ideas. Maybe the mayor will be intrigued and ask the town attorney to research the matter a little more. Maybe you will have some email correspondence with some people in town hall and maybe your idea will be put on the agenda for public input. All along, you are thinking of how great this will be for the community. Then, sit back and watch how you are falsely accused of wrong doing. See how easily that just happened? I am not trying to be sarcastic or rude - just trying to make a point.
Rick March 28, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Wow. Not trying to be sarcastic? That is the definition of sarcastic.
Jennifer McNulty March 28, 2012 at 03:26 AM
Beth, I can understand your frustration and sarcasm, it may not be best placed towards me but that is fine. I do not think I have ever been rude or sarcastic to you or others either here or in person. It is possible I have and I am sorry if that is the case. With that being said your point is well made. I can see the way people try to twist events to try to make their point. My issue is with the financing of the fields. Not the installation of turf, the size of the lights, the brightness of the lights, the volume of the children, or even who knew what and when they knew it. I personally do not feel we need to use Open Space Funds to finance new turf fields.
Tom Wyka March 28, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Beth, I addressed this a bit differently in another thread. Without getting into too much detail - I love to tell you a little story how I politely asked the mayor 3 times (when he was a councilman) to support an anti-corruption measure that I was promoting with a statewide good government organization back in 2009, and how the mayor ignored me until I walked into Town Hall with 1300 signatures - forcing the issue to be voted on, and that he disingenously voted for it prior to the election - then after he was elected - summarily dismantled it with the help of Mr. Inglesino for purely partisan reasons (but that's ancient history ;-) The difference was that the only "backdoor" advance I made on this was a polite phone call to Mr. Cesaro to ask for support (ironically who also voted for then dismantled it after his election). All else was done in public - which oddly enough - is some sort of anathma to these people. They literally take offense to having a public debate. But I'll stand by that strategy forever - as I think building a consensus publicly is always preferable to something prepped and launched from behind a closed door. I'm not sure who it was in the FOD group that first said "don't tell anyone about this yet" and ingrained it as the prepartory strategy - but I think that culture handicapped this effort in a bad way. It bred a lot of resentment from those on the outside looking in.
Beth Bluj March 28, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Rick - obviously you don't know me, so you shouldn't say you know when I am being sarcastic. I was simply pointing out how someone with good intentions can get accused of wrong doing in the blink of an eye.
Beth Bluj March 28, 2012 at 12:48 PM
Jennifer - it's not sarcasm; it's reality. I have always listened politely, been receptive to peoples concerns, and tried to be as polite as possible on these forums and at meetings while watching some great people get attacked and dragged through the mud. When you say you haven't been rude or sarcastic then what did you mean by? "Also, I think we should look at what cars our neighbors are driving and make sure we have exactly the same cars (or better). It is all about comparing ourselves to our neighbors. Great lessons for our children." To me you are sarcastically implying that the proponents of the FOD are not teaching their children good life lessons. Again, can you see how easily your words got twisted? On a more peaceful note, I appreciate where you are coming from in regards to the funding and, on this, we will have to agree to disagree. For me, personally, it's still my tax dollars whether it comes from here or there.
Jennifer McNulty March 28, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Beth, I used those words to try to make a point but can see your side. In addition the written word in either emails or forums can be twisted easily. I will use this analogy for the funding. If I needed a new car I would not raid my 401K to pay for it. Though it is all my revenue that pays either for my 401K or a new car there are certain budgets and funds that are to be used for certain projects. If I took all my retirement money just to pay for things that I want today then me and my family would be in worse shape when we want to retire. As you stated, I would much rather have peaceful conversations and exchange of ideas. More information can be shared through intelligent dialogue than insults, sarcasm and lies. I would be very willing to help at any time in either trying to fix the current field or come up with other financing options that do not include giving up control of the fields and using Open Space Fund monies. As I think you know I have 2 children currently at the Hills and will continue to have athletes going through the Hills for many years to come.
Rick March 28, 2012 at 02:28 PM
Beth - I don't need to know you to understand sarcasm. This issue is highly 'charged' and there is plenty of sarcasm going around. I agree with your point that people with good intentions can be ‘villainized ‘quickly; it happens all the time, everyday and it’s unfortunate; and before this FOD issue is resolved, you can bet there will be several more 'villains' labeled. None the less, we should all make every effort to respect one another while this project is vetted openly. We are all members of one community...let’s affect positive change.
Beth Bluj March 28, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Rick - well said. I know that I have always acted respectfully to all persons on both sides. I wil maintain that I was not being sarcastic and I will continue to voice my beliefs in the same respectful manner in which I have always done.
TJ Ritter March 28, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Definition of Insanity – Doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Field Agreement with Township FIELD AGREE W/TOWNSHIP 4. BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education approve an agreement with the Township of Parsippany-Troy Hills for field maintenance as follows: WHEREAS, the Township and the Board have previously agreed that athletic fields owned by the Board may be used by residents of the Township for athletic and other events upon a mutually agreeable basis; and WHEREAS, the Township and the Board have previously agreed that athletic fields owned by the Township may be used by the Board for school athletic and other events upon a mutually agreeable basis; and WHEREAS, the Board has entered into a contract with North Jersey LandCare Services, LLC of Fairfield, New Jersey to maintain the school athletic fields from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011, for a base contract price of $166,055.25 for field maintenance with additional services on a time and/or materials cost. NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing and of the mutual covenants contained herein and the obligations to be performed and the amounts to be paid hereunder, the parties agree as follows: For more details see page 13 of http://www.pthsd.k12.nj.us/pdf/MINS_7_15_10.pdf
Robyn M. March 29, 2012 at 04:28 AM
Chris - we don't live in Mountain Lakes. Anyone looking for "the best" should consider buying there-they have a lot of upscale amenities.The rest of us who picked Parsippany, because it was somewhat affordable can stay here and make do. It's a crappy economy, it's not time to throw out the Ford and buy the Ferrari. Many people are not getting raises or worse are unemployed. We have real problems to deal with here and drainage is a big one-we need more open space, more trees, more grass and more landscape that sucks up water, not plastic grass. Sports are important. I played them, too and my kids do, too. But, to me, I a) don't believe in poisoning the earth with any more plastic, chemical-filled junk than I have to b) generally believe that elbow grease (i.e. fixing the fields in this case) is often the best solution. c) think it's laughable that we're talking about improving playing games when our academic scores are not stellar d) Open space is about preserving land, not fixing a school field.Rutgers has an incredible agriculture department and offers expertise free of charge-have an expert come, evaluate the soil and present some solutions that don't require resorting to Rubbermaid. I'm embarrassed to say I live in this town. The Seitz fiasco. The mayor writing a letter to support a druggie. And, now plastic fields used with OPEN SPACE money. I feel like I've landed on a strange planet where people walk on their heads!
Robyn M. March 29, 2012 at 04:34 AM
My thoughts exactly. We have hired people all along, who were there to maintain these things (maintenance people, people in charge of maintenance people). What happened? When the fence first starts to rust, you do a touch up, so it doesn't get worse. When a little section breaks you repair that piece. Immediately. Is this how people maintain their homes? Wait until it all completely falls apart, then hire someone else to fix it?
Robyn M. March 29, 2012 at 05:04 AM
I disagree. I have no vested interest in the game, not a staunch democrat nor republican. The right thing to do is go out with a clipboard and take inventory to see what needs to be done in a logical and detailed manner. To me, the school board was never really responsible for maintenance-that's like saying Obama is in charge of the White House garden. We have maintenance people who are there every day staring at these things, they have bosses and their bosses have bosses. As things break, they need to be fixed, bit by bit. Why didn't they?
Robyn M. March 29, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Julia - I've read your columns before and I appreciate your insight. I have read positive and negative things about turf. What are your thoughts in terms of health impacts and ecological impacts (especially in light of our specific landscape)? Are there any?
TJ Ritter April 02, 2012 at 12:41 AM
Please check out the updated website of www.parsippanyunite.com A new Fact Check section has been added. If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact Parsippany Unite. Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right. Jane Goodall

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