RAHWAY, NJ — The City of Rahway and Union County are proposing to renovate the track and field at Rahway River Park, which borders Rahway and Clark, pending approval from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. But before the project can get the green light, local residents can have their say during a public hearing at The Rahway Public Library on Tuesday, Sept. 15.
The proposed $5 million renovation at Rahway River Park will improve the track and fields used by the Union County residents, make it compliant with “existing athletic practices,” and establish a new home for Rahway High School’s football, soccer and track teams, according to a press release from the county.
The former is why Union County has agreed to partially pay for the project, committing $2.4 million on top of Rahway’s $2.3 million. County officials felt residents in surrounding towns could benefit, as Rahway High School only needs the field for five to seven home football games, leaving the proposed turf field open and available for the rest of the year.
If approved as is, Union County and Rahway will install turf, 1,200-seat bleachers, lighting, an eight-lane running track and more at the 40-year-old sports complex, which will also be a new place for the football team to play. Because the group’s current home, Veteran’s field, is often in unusable condition, the football team is regularly forced to reschedule games or move to different venues.
The public hearing will be an opportunity for some local residents to raise their objections, including any opposition in Clark. According to a Localsource report from Thursday, July 9, there is “a grassroots group of residents” who “are trying to stop the project,” including Clark residents who formed a group called The Coalition to Save Historic Rahway River Park.
According to the report, the coalition objects to the county paying for the renovation, and wants to “preserve Rahway River Park as it was intended: a peaceful haven of relaxation, light recreation with natural open spaces to be enjoyed by both humans and local wildlife.” They believe a renovated sports area would have an impact on the park’s wildlife, as well as parking and traffic.
Other residents were concerned about the installation of turf, which they feared would be a safety hazard. But county officials said much of the project had been misrepresented, and they put together several fact sheets to clarify the half-truths circulating. The county also “flatly denied” many of the coalition’s accusations, and said the proposed upgrade of the sports field will not impact the wildlife, traffic and parking issues in the area.
Over the months, the renovation plans have changed with public input. An initially proposed 5,000-seat bleachers were scaled back to 1,200-seats, for example, according to the Localsource report on Thursday, July 9. At the time, Freeholder Board Chairman Mohamed Jalloh explained that these plans were only in their early stages, and that Union County would eventually conduct a public meeting about the renovation.
“There are no contractors hired, no resolution has been drafted or approved,” said Jalloh. “But there will be a presentation on this in the future.”
That meeting will be four years after renovation discussions first began in 2011. Written comments on this request and proposal will be accepted, and any copies of written comments submitted on the proposal shall be sent to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.