Spring is just around the corner, and that means it’s nearly time to play ball. While the Moorestown Youth Softball Association (MYSA) will have to contend with poor field conditions for at least one more season, some relief may soon be in sight.
The Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently announced Moorestown Township was awarded a $150,000 park grant toward the reconstruction of two softball fields at Wesley Bishop Park.
This marks the first time the Burlington County Freeholders have awarded municipal park grants since 2017. Municipalities could apply for up to $250,000 in funding toward their projects. In September 2019, Moorestown submitted an application seeking the funding maximum.
Thomas Merchel, the interim township manager, said the township recently had soil samples taken for testing, and they are assessing the drainage conditions at Wesley Bishop. They’re currently waiting to receive the official award letter from the freeholders, and once that’s in hand, the township engineer will design and bid the project.
The project’s current scope includes regrading, improving field drainage and reseeding at the two fields. At a September 2019 council meeting, the township’s experts estimated the total improvements were around $610,000.
“The grant will help offset some of the project cost,” Merchel said. “It will not cover the full scope of work, but every bit helps.”
Merchel said while it’s too soon to speak to any timeline, he estimates the earliest any work could begin is fall 2020. He said any timelines are contingent on the time it takes to design, bid and construct the overall project.
The project comes on the heels of some passionate lobbying from MYSA’s coaches and players. MYSA members previously told council the softball fields have insufficient drainage, and, at times, they’ve had to cancel games three days after a rainstorm because the water still had not drained.
Bob Reilley, MYSA board member, said while they’re grateful for the grant, their members recognize the funds will fall short of addressing the numerous issues at both fields. He said given that information, their hope is that the funds will be used to address the most serious issues at Wesley Bishops — whatever the township deems those to be.
MYSA hasn’t given up on pursuing more funding from the township, and they’re hopeful the township will kick in toward the fields’ refurbishment. Meanwhile, the league is currently doing some brainstorming of their own about how best to fundraise, and the board is considering a series of fundraising events.
“Perhaps if we can do that, we can demonstrate to the township that this is something we’re willing to invest in,” Reilley said.
Reilley said he knows that council is moving forward with good intentions as they work together to find solutions.
“Everyone’s focus is on doing the right thing for the girls,” Reilley said. “We just want them to have the same opportunities as the boys.”