Consultants hired by Mercer County to draw up a conceptual plan for Mercer County Park Northwest, including the Pole Farm, Rosedale Park, Curlis Lake Woods and the Equestrian Center, presented their plan for passive recreation at a Mercer County Park Commission meeting on June 29. A full-color map shows existing and planned trails, parking areas, environmental and historic interpretation areas and other features.
A number of members of the public, including several WCAS members, spoke up in support of the concept and made a few suggestions for tweaking the plan. Overall, the plan is in line with what WCAS has been recommending for the Pole Farm since Mercer County purchased it in 1995. At the urging of WCAS board member Eileen Katz, the U.S. Department of Agriculture representatives toured the Pole Farm with several Park Commission staff and the county naturalist to assess the existing grassland habitat and make recommendations for its maintenance and restoration, where needed.
Active recreation is not part of the conceptual plan. However, at their July 27 meeting, the Park Commission passed a resolution stating that the Commission "supports the County of Mercer and Township of Lawrence to enter into negotiations for a 35-acre land parcel transfer in Mercer County Park Northwest (1,700 acres) for outdoor recreation." While the resolution does not specifically state that Lawrence's intent is to use the parcel for athletic fields, a letter presented to the Commission on June 29 by the township states that they want the land for soccer and other playing fields. The resolution does not define the nature of the land transfer, whether it will be sale, lease or other.
The proposed land transfer and the intended usage of the parcel prompt a number of questions and concerns. Why is this deal being expedited before an approved master plan for the park is in place? How many playing fields would there be and how intensively would they be used? Are accessory buildings or bleachers planned? Would there be night lighting? Would there be paved parking and how much? How would the development impact habitat, farming and the sense of quiet retreat one finds at the Pole Farm? Would this set a precedent for transferring parts of the park to other municipalities for active use?
What you can do: E-mail any or all of the individuals listed below with your comments regarding the overall concept for Mercer Count Park NW or the proposed land transfer. Or you may write to them at the McDade Administration Building, 640 South Broad Street, Trenton, NJ 08650. Park Commission meetings usually are held the last Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. To confirm meeting time and place, phone 609-989-6559. If you would like to be notified of upcoming meetings or receive other information regarding the Pole Farm, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Pole Farm Alert List."
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