I write to address confusion concerning the plans for an expanded multipurpose field at Washington Park, positioned between Paterson Plank Road and Second Street and between Palisade and New York Avenues, which will be used for soccer, football, softball and baseball. It is important to note that a field has existed at this park for at least half a century. Thanks to Mayors of the past, such as Musto, Wichert, Menendez and Walter, the field was improved and lighting was added, in order to provide additional recreational opportunity for children.
Now, with the expanded popularity of soccer, and continued participation in football and baseball, additional youth teams are necessary. It has always been my policy that no child should be cut from a team during formative years. Rather than tell a child that he or she cannot play, it is essential to expand leagues. The practice of allowing everyone to play encourages self-esteem, camaraderie and discipline. These learned attributes will be valuable later in life.
During the past eighteen months, I have met with the Washington Park Association on countless occasions. I personally visited the stone quarry to select samples that were agreed upon for walkways, passive recreation areas and other park components. The Washington Park Association chose the stone, type of walkway, lighting, plants and shrubs, and the trees to plant around the entire field. A blank slate was offered to anyone who wished to offer input into plans for the park.
As plans progressed, an arborist directed some trees to be removed and some trees be trimmed. What has been lost in some of the rhetoric and posturing is that over 300 mature trees will be added to Washington Park. The removal of trees is a last resort, but the overall product is aimed at additional greenery.
I love trees. This is evidenced by the planting of approximately 500 trees, annually, in Union City. Furthermore, I think my passion for recreational facilities is made obvious by examining local parks, which are built to be enjoyed by thousands and well maintained.
With regard to the recent public meetings regarding plans, readers should know that there was no requirement for such meetings. The hosting of these meetings was at my direction and it was to encourage transparency and public input. In addition to public meetings, I returned numerous calls on this matter and held informal meetings at diners, seeking feedback. I remain open to suggestions, ideas and constructive criticism, but the expansion of the field must happen for local children.
Hudson County is one of the most densely-populated counties in the nation and residents face economic hardships, creating a large population that is in great need of low-cost, recreational opportunities. Opponents of the expansion of a field must realize that many of the children who will use this play area do not have means to experience out-of-town venues. Economic reality is paramount to the need for this field.
When these renovations are complete, I am certain that the finished product will be the pride and joy of tens of thousands of children. We will never know how many children are offered a safe haven by providing such a recreational facility. Hours spent kicking a ball, swinging a bat or catching a pass is time away from being lured by the pitfalls of the streets.
Brian P. Stack