HomeMoorestown NewsNeighbors call for preservation of Memorial Field

Neighbors call for preservation of Memorial Field

A petition opposing changes to Memorial Field has garnered more than 400 signatures.

In September, Moorestown Council informed residents that its plans to transform Memorial Field into soccer fields were being put on hold, and public discussions on the subject came to a halt at council meetings. But the residents whose homes border Memorial Field didn’t forget.

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A petition opposing the installation of additional lighting at Memorial Field and calling for preservation of the Vietnam veterans’ memorials has garnered more than 400 signatures from residents. The residents behind the petition are also asking council to consider passing an ordinance that would formally recognize and preserve the fields.

The residents made their opposition known back in the fall when they learned about a concept plan for new soccer fields that showed all of the potential locations where soccer fields could go. Memorial Field is currently host to two soccer fields and four baseball diamonds, and the proposed plan called for the removal of some of the baseball diamonds to accommodate soccer fields on the left side of the field. In September, then-Deputy Mayor Manuel Delgado let the public know that the plans were being put on hold.

Roberta Scott, one of the residents actively involved in circulating the petition, said discussions around the project fell off when Delgado was not re-elected, and the project was left in a limbo state. She said while they recognize that an ordinance can always be changed by this council or a future one, they want something in writing that says this council is opposed to altering Memorial Field.

“We are in total support of the sports clubs and their desire for expansion – just not at Memorial Field,” Scott said. “We have many areas in town that can better satisfy their needs and would not impact a residential community or disrespect the memories of veterans who gave their lives for our freedom.”

She said around 10 residents organized the petition, split up and went door-to-door to speak with their neighbors and encourage them to sign. The petition addresses a variety of residents’ concerns about the addition of lighting and the accompanying nighttime activities that would come with it. Their potential concerns include problems with traffic and parking; intrusion upon neighbors’ privacy; negative changes to the character of the neighborhood and an increase in security problems.

Scott said Memorial Field is the only sports facility in town with homes bordering it on all four sides. She said she and her neighbors fear that lights would reflect into their homes, and they’d seen an increase in cars parked along their cul-de-sac.

Scott said in addition to the lighting, many residents were uneasy about the fact that the baseball fields were being removed to create soccer fields. Each of the four baseball fields was dedicated to a Moorestown resident who lost his life serving in the Vietnam War. A memorial marker was placed at each field honoring W. Phillip Seel Jr., George S. Yohnnson, Howard H. Mayer and Roger A. Ross, who all played baseball on the fields during their years in Moorestown.

Gene Clark, commander of William H. Snyder Post 42 with the American Legion, sent a letter to council on behalf of the post outlining why it felt the fields needed to be preserved. He said almost all of the other parks in Moorestown were named after veterans (Wesley Bishop, Jeffrey Young and John Pryor) and reconfiguring Memorial Field detracts from the field’s reverence to the veterans after which it was named.

“We feel it is an affront and a slight to all those whose names are chiseled on the face of the monuments at Memorial Field that gave their lives in service for our country,” Clark writes in his letter to council.

Following the November elections, the residents waited to broach the subject again in deference to the new council, which had other pressing matters at hand, Scott said. But many still felt strongly it was important to ask for something in writing, so they crafted a potential ordinance they hand-delivered at the most recent council meeting. The ordinance states the fields should “be forever preserved” in honor of the four fallen veterans and that no additional high-intensity lighting be installed “now or in the future.”

Township Manager Thomas Neff declined to comment, except to say that there are no plans being actively considered by township staff or professionals that would add lighting or otherwise change the use of Memorial Field.

Scott said this is not the first time the township has proposed changing Memorial Field, and in her eyes, having council put something in writing to acknowledge the neighbors’ opposition to future changes would go a long way.

“We feel very vulnerable,” Scott said.

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