Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 33
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
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Harrison St. Park Achieves 'Milestone' as Borough Hires Park Design Firm

Matthew Hersh

Princeton Borough, along with some committed neighbors, is moving toward putting a run-down, though beloved, neighborhood jewel back on the map.

A design firm, Edgewater Design, LLC, of Millburn, was given a $39,000 contract with Princeton Borough to conduct design work on` Harrison Street Park, concluding a multi-year process that could now result in a public process, with a final design proposal by the end of the year. Edgewater is also expected to prepare bid documents for potential contractors hired to implement the firm's design instructions.

The hiring follows a lengthy debate among neighbors and municipal officials in discussing which firm should be hired, and how those firms should covey their findings. The Borough entertained proposals from firms that ranged in cost anywhere from Edgewater's $39,000 bid to proposals in the six-figure range. Borough administrator Robert Bruschi, however, said that the lower bid would be sufficient to complete the work needed for Harrison Street Park.

A kick-off meeting between Borough Hall and Edgewater is scheduled for later this month, and there will be a series of public meetings beginning in early September.

"The project had a nice jumpstart two years ago, and now we have a really good group of interested residents," Mr. Bruschi said, adding that the firm will design the park based on resident feedback, including using native trees, establishing gardens and wildflowers, and then bringing the park up to code with new playground equipment.

Andrew Koontz, a Borough Councilman who has worked with a neighborhood group, Harrison Street Park Friends, called the hiring a "major milestone in the Harrison Street Park rehabilitation project" in a letter to residents involved in the park's planning process, adding that the Borough has made "undeniable progress."

Edgewater will likely implement, at least in part, the findings of a report submitted last year to Borough Hall by naturalist Steve Hiltner, who was contracted by the Borough to examine plant growth in the park. Mr. Hiltner's report was presented to neighbors and some Council members last October; at that time, he pointed to leaf-clogged drains as contributors to an ongoing flooding problem, which is worse in the winter when rain falls on snow-covered or partially frozen grounds.

Included in Mr. Hiltner's "Stewardship Plan" is a tree report by Princeton arborist Robert Wells identifying 217 trees of four inches in diameter or greater. Mr. Wells recommended the removal of 23 trees for disease purposes, or because they presented a potential hazard. Spruce and pine trees make up about 25 percent of the park's trees, with a total of 21 other species filling out the population.

Mr. Bruschi said he was pleased that that rehabilitation process was moving forward: "It's time to have a nice park in the neighborhood again."

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