Youth football, lacrosse raise concerns about Pleasant Valley park conditions

Youth football and lacrosse sought out answers from the township regarding conditions at Pleasant Valley Park.

The township committee discussed improvements to Pleasant Valley Park with representatives from youth football and lacrosse at it’s May 6 meeting.

Resident Megan Battaglia, the director of cheerleading for Clearview Youth Football and Cheerleading, spoke during public comment to raise concerns about the April 24 – 30 article in The Sun titled “Township talks grounds issues at Pleasant Valley Park” about how improvements could be made to the park.

I’m a board member and I’m aware of something that was said that were misleading and primarily untrue: they want us to take a year off, but we were never to go to Rowan,” said Battaglia. “It’s not our town.”

The concerns originally came up in the April 15 meeting after the lacrosse club notified the township about the quality of the park. In an email provided to The Sun by the club, the concerns were damages, player safety, leveling of “fields one and two,” a concession stand and storage. Lacrosse plays on fields one, two and three at the park.

She added that her organization wasn’t notified about seasons ending or the closure of the park.

Mayor Louis Manzo responded to her saying the teams weren’t notified because nothing was decided at the April 15 meeting.

These are the things we do at every meeting where we talk about stuff,” said Manzo. “These were maybes, possibilities, or directives made. Therefore, there would be no reason to contact an entity because it’s not what we’re doing. We were just talking about it. If you read it, it doesn’t say we’re doing it.

Battaglia added there are pressing safety concerns about the park about kids “who have gotten hurt because of the sprinkler heads being exposed.”

When you raise the concern for safety, I have a major concern to let anyone play on the fields tomorrow,” said Manzo. “How can we possibly, with a conscious, to allow anybody to play on those fields tomorrow?”

Manzo added background stating soccer was the biggest youth sport organization in town prior to the William Wilt Complex construction, and they needed to be moved from Ella Harris Park to William Wilt to give space for the other youth organizations.

Deputy Township Administrator and Supervisor of Public Works Dennis Chambers reiterated the point he made in the original article that there’s a small window of time between the end of lacrosse and beginning of football to do repairs to the park.

Lacrosse starts Feb. 28, they end in June,” said Chambers. “Football starts, on a limited basis, practicing in the middle of August. It’s just now that grass is starting to come out of dormancy – maybe two or three weeks ago. Obviously you can’t do field maintenance between Dec. 1 and beginning of March.”

He added it’s a balancing act between the two organizations to get things done. Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis has tried to establish a communication channel between all of the youth organizations (namely, lacrosse, football and soccer) with the township, however it fell through.

Chambers added he still thinks the park should have a large-scale renovation project with “underground storm drainage, plateauing the fields and leveling everything,” but the cost can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, if done correctly. 

“We can go in and fill depressions, but really what we’re all doing is moving problems around,” said Chambers. “Whatever we do will impact the sport group that’s playing there. Then we have challenges of fighting the weather, mowing grass, etc. Unfortunately, you guys need to work around us. We have a small staff, I’ve got eight guys and it’s one of the things we’re challenged with.”

He added soccer is willing to spend roughly $30,000 for field maintenance at William Wilt, and it’s something the two organizations could look into. Youth lacrosse club president Aparicio “Reese” Giddins said lacrosse doesn’t have the funds for it as much as soccer does because of registration, paying for coaches, equipment, etc.

The township, said Manzo and Chambers, tried in the past to get playing time secured at Rowan’s turf field, which is located in Harrison Township, but a previous football board member who was not named declined. An attempt was also made to get time at William Wilt, but it was declined again by a previous football board member.

The organizations requested a committee to be created, like in the past, that consists of the youth organizations (soccer, football and lacrosse) and representatives from the township, to discuss what could be done at the park, and how to move forward.

The next committee meeting is scheduled for May 20, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Court Room.