Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 17
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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Play Equipment, Design, Are Focus of Meeting on Harrison Street Park

Dilshanie Perera

Neighbors of Harrison Street Park, Borough staff, Council President Andrew Koontz, and other interested parties met with Edgewater Design consultant Jan Saltiel-Rafel last Tuesday to discuss the most recent set of plans regarding the park’s renovation and design.

While neighbors suggested that the number of swings in the park be increased, the major point of contention was the design of the park’s focal point, a stand-alone structure called the “treehouse.” Ms. Saltiel-Rafel presented an architect’s design that was “loosely based on an echinacea bloom” and featured sustainable elements, like lumber sized to minimize wood waste.

With the base of the structure seven feet off the ground, and a slide, ladder, and ramp leading to and from it, neighbors suggested that the current design was not fun enough. “You get in there, and what are you going to do?” asked resident Clifford Zink, adding that the point of the treehouse was to “get kids elevated, have them look out at the rest of the park, and use the treehouse to interact with the landscape.”

Mr. Zink recommended that the neighborhood become involved in the design process by talking to the architect.

Borough Engineer Chris Budzinski noted in a telephone interview that Borough staff were “contemplating pulling out the design and build of the treehouse” from the general bid to contractors.

Mr. Budzinski anticipated that Borough staff and Edgewater Design will be able to present a plan to Council for approval within the next few months, and “hopefully in May.”

The estimated cost of the Harrison Street Park’s renovation would be in the “mid-$700,000s,” according to Mr. Budzinski. Funding for the park would be part of the Borough’s capital expenditures.

In a recent meeting of the Princeton Environmental Commission, naturalist Steve Hiltner noted that approximately $100,000 of the project was devoted to planting native species of plants, but worried that there was nothing in the budget to maintain them.

At the same meeting, Recreation Director Jack Roberts said that there were “major drainage issues, and tree issues” that have to be addressed in the project. “Harrison Street Park has not been touched in 40 years,” he said regarding maintenance.

“We look at it as truly a community park,” Mr. Roberts observed, noting that people from all over town use it. In a joint meeting last month between Borough Council and Township Committee, both municipalities approved of allocating $150,000 in the Recreation Department’s budget for the Harrison Street Park project.

During the park meeting, Mr. Koontz noted that “if we thin out some of the landscaping, we could probably achieve more cost-savings.”

The proposal by Edgewater Design and Borough staff will be brought to Council in an open public meeting in the coming weeks.

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