Wesley Bishop fields to see drainage work

MYSA members previously told the council the softball fields have insufficient drainage, and, at times, they’ve had to cancel games after a rainstorm.

For more than a year, the Moorestown Youth Softball Association (MYSA)  asked Moorestown Township Council to repair the fields at Wesley Bishop Park. The drainage woes at the township facility may soon come to an end with improvement work potentially starting in mid-July.

At Monday’s virtual meeting, town council members discussed the scope of the work. While the township plans to address drainage at Wesley Bishop, the question remains whether the township will create a designated softball field at the township facility.

The township received a $150,000 grant for improvements at the Wesley Bishop South through the Burlington County Municipal Park Development Program. On Monday, council discussed spending $40,000 of that money toward drainage work. MYSA members previously told the 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 has not drained.

While council members were eager to proceed with the irrigation work, some debate arose about transforming the fields into designated softball fields. As it stands, MYSA shares the fields with Moorestown Flag Football.

Councilman Michael Locatell explained that in order to host games and have a qualified field, a softball league must have fencing up. During MYSA’s spring season, the league would put up temporary fencing that got taken down in the fall for the Moorestown Youth Football Association’s teams to utilize the space. 

Locatell questioned if they could install permanent fencing and make the space a year-round dedicated field for the players. Councilwoman Lisa Petriello also wondered how much give and take of field space a dedicated space would take up. 

“How much more of those fields would you need to carve out for softball to have a permanent field?” Petriello asked.

Theresa Miller, director of the Moorestown Parks and Recreation Department, said it boils down to how much space Moorestown Flag Football, whose enrollment is higher than MYSA’s enrollment, needs to run its program. She said she would need to speak with Moorestown Flag Football to see where their enrollment numbers stand. 

Locatell stressed that MYSA’s repeated request has been for a dedicated field. He said if they’re pushing forward with upgrades to the field, it would make more sense to install fencing now and make all the improvements at once rather than returning to the project at a later date. 

Mayor Nicole Gillespie said she was hopeful that they may be able to create a dedicated field if the scheduling works out, but in the meantime, she suggested that they use the grant money for the drainage with the leftover funding put toward amenities such as the dugouts and bleachers. 

“I know it’s not the ideal [that] they wanted, but I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Gillespie said.

Irrigation work on the field could start as early as the week of July 13. Miller said weather permitting, the work could take between four and five weeks to complete.

She said she’s already worked out the temporary schedule disruption with MYSA. In the interim, the team will practice at Jeff Young Park, and the teams will schedule most of their games away this season. 

The next meeting of Moorestown Township Council will take place on Monday, July 13.