An online petition to “save historic Rahway River Park” has garnered more than 1,500 signatures since it was created this week.
The petition on Change.org addresses the county Board of Freeholders as well as the Rahway City Council and Clark Township Council, to “vote against the costly and hazardous construction of a multi-sport stadium” at the park adjacent to St. Georges Avenue. The group’s Facebook page also includes a variety of documents and communications about the planning for the improvements.
Mayor Samson Steinman unveiled plans for upgrades at several parks, including a new football field at Rahway River Park with 5,000-seat bleachers, in his 2014 State of the City address. About a year ago, City Council approved a $2.9-million bond ordinance to authorize borrowing money for the city’s share of the park upgrades. Improvements also are included for Greenfield Park and a park behind Madison School.
In an update at the 2015 State of the City last month, the mayor said planning continues with Union County on the improvements to Rahway River Park (since it’s a county park) but didn’t get into specifics. Personally, I was left with the impression by some that the plan for 5,000-seat bleachers part of the project was to be revised, likely downward — but no official word on that.
March 20 UPDATE: Union County yesterday passed along a 730-word letter in response to this petition. You can find it in its entirety here but the main points challenge the accuracy of some of the statements, namely:
- The project, which has been in the planning stages since 2011, is not a “5,000-seat multi-sport stadium” and the county disputes the implication that an “enclosed facility of significant height” is planned. “It’s an upgrade of existing athletic field, including refurbishment of an existing track and replacement of existing grass field with artificial turf.”
- “The city has agreed to install standard, aluminum bleachers to seat seat nor more than 1,200, along with other amenities.” That decision was made “sometime last year,” according to a spokesperson for the county.
- The plan does not violate any environmental or historic regulations and will have no impact on wildlife habitat, nor does it encroach on undeveloped areas of the park.
- The field will not be leased to the “school board” for “private use,” but like all 36 county parks will be open to all visitors, “not just ‘local families.'”