March 17, 2021

Youth Sports Leader Strongly Supports Renovation Plans for Hilltop Park

To the Editor:

I am a neighbor of Hilltop Park and a youth sports leader in Princeton. Hilltop Park has one combined soccer/lacrosse field that is in very poor condition, and the lights on the single baseball/softball field are decades old. 

One of the significant changes in the culture of Princeton in the last 15 years has been the dramatic increase in participation of youth sports.  As a result, we simply don’t have enough playing fields to accommodate the demand from all the youth sports leagues. Climate change and increased rainfall have exacerbated the problem. 

The renovation plans for Hilltop Park are designed to help alleviate field shortages. The plan for turfing and lighting the existing field will accommodate more games and reduce the impact of rainouts.

I know there are concerns about the use of artificial turf. Ten years ago, I would not have been in favor of turfing any fields, but from everything I have read in recent years, the materials used to make the turf fields today are dramatically improved in terms of being both athlete-healthy  and environmentally-friendly.  Moreover, the plan for the new water management system for the field area will capture rainfall or snow melt and disperse it in a regulated way. Additionally, the installation of the latest generation of field lights on both fields will dramatically reduce light pollution.

One point of clarification, the plan is to only turf the soccer/lacrosse field, not the other natural grass areas.

If we were NOT to move ahead with the planned renovations, the only other alternative would be to buy a new tract of land and develop it as a playing field complex. This would cost many millions of dollars, and would noticeably drive-up field maintenance costs for the town. For those that are worried that this will ultimately lead to turfing all the fields in town, I can tell you that I do not see that as wanted or needed, nor does anyone I know in our community. 

Relatedly, I also want to applaud the efforts of our Recreation Department and Commission, and our current and previous mayors and Council on how they have handled putting the Hilltop renovation plan into place. First, they have engaged stakeholders and considered their input, while continuing to adjust the original plan, including the addition of new parking spaces to keep people from parking on the neighborhood streets. Second, they should be commended for securing and using $500,000 in county grant monies to pay for from one-third to one-half of the costs.

A final point of clarification, there have been a combination of seven publicly announced presentations and votes on the project involving Council and municipal commissions going back to December of 2018.

In closing, I strongly support the renovation plans for Hilltop Park.

Jon Durbin
Mount Lucas Road