LIVINGSTON, NJ — After acquiring 20-plus acres of open space between the Licari Horse Farm at 240 East Northfield Road and a portion of Strahman Hill Park at 321 East Cedar Street, the Township of Livingston has heard proposals from the Open Space Trust Committee regarding the use of both properties and has committed to contributing funds toward both projects.
The council plans to reopen the conversation during Monday’s council meeting and garner input from community members who have expressed mixed feelings about the recent proposals.
At the Licari Horse Farm, the committee has recommended that the property be repurposed for the use of Livingston’s summer day camp—an idea that has been embraced by all involved—but has faced a significant challenge with providing access to the site.
“Right now, the only access is off of busy Northfield Rd., where there's a one-way ramp into the property, which is dangerous and wouldn't be able to be used by the general public in a safe manner,” said Altman. “Our proposal is to potentially recommend building a parking lot at the top of the property. So you would come in through Columbia Road, and on the property itself—which is pretty level at the top—we would recommend building a lot…This is a big hill, [so] then you would put in stairs coming down to the bottom of the property. That would be probably enough to give it general access to the public.”
Earlier this week, Altman and Cooper met with residents from surrounding neighborhoods who have strongly opposed the proposed parking lot and access road at the top of Columbia Road. Although this meeting was closed to the public, the Open Space Trust Committee invited residents to voice their opinions publicly during Monday’s township council as the committee continues to “explore ways of utilizing this gem of a property for the benefit of our town."
After providing an access point to the property, Altman explained that phase two would be to make the small but necessary changes to allow the Senior, Youth and Leisure Services (SYLS) department’s summer camp to transition from its current program, which spreads campers between multiple locations throughout town, to the central location of the Licari Horse Farm.
According to Altman, SYLS Director Jennifer Walker and Township Engineer Jeanette recently toured the property and determined that the site is ideal for the camp during the eight-week summer period.
Altman noted that there is a house situated on the property that could be used for administration as well as several barns that can be used for camp activities with small improvements such as elevating the ceilings and sanding and painting the walls.
Other miscellaneous items that the committee has proposed to improve the site for both camp and public uses include water fountains, hose hookups, electricity at the existing gazebo and portable bathrooms.
“Camp would be operating for eight weeks in the summer from Monday through Friday, so that would leave a lot of other time available on weekends during the summer and the other seasons for the council to be able to take advantage of this very beautiful piece of property for picnicking or just meditating,” said Altman.
Cooper also reiterated that the committee does not suggest building or knocking down anything that currently exists at the property.
“It’s historic, it's unique, and it's beautiful,” he said. “I think with without trying to develop this into a theme park or things that would attract a lot of people, leaving it in its present condition and maintaining it would be very attractive and attract a fair number of people just to enjoy the beauty.”
He explained the committee’s proposal for Strahman Hill Park similarly, stating that the property is already “ready to go as a park,” but that there are certain improvements that should be considered to “make it a little more user-friendly.”
Some of the most popular suggestions for the nearly nine-acre property included adding signage, benches, picnic tables, walking trails, ornamental water features, gazebos, pavilions, natural playgrounds, sculptures, restrooms and parking. Additionally, Cooper noted that the purchased land includes a residential home and garage that can either be utilized or torn down as part of a future phase.
The committee also recommended adding “something to delineate the property lines” so that visitors cannot enter the yard of the one family that lives on site.
“This is a beautiful piece of property, and to have a piece of property like that in Livingston today is a real treasure. We're not looking to turn it into Coney Island; we're looking to maintain that beauty for generations to come. It's very conducive to walking paths, to meditating and just enjoying what's up there.”
Once again, however, the main challenge lies in ingress and egress. Altman explained that the current entrance to the property also serves as the entrance to Trinity Covenant Church, which is “essentially a one-lane road” with “no exit at the other end of this property.”
“For safety purposes, we feel that we would have to widen that road about 600 feet,” he said. “I don't know what the cost of that would be, but I imagine it would be a significant figure…The other solution is to continue that road beyond our property. Along the property owned by the water company that has that huge water tower, and if you keep going along that direction, it ends on a street that has a cul de sac. That street would be about 300 feet that we would have to build.
“If we did that, then we would not have to expand the existing path that's on the property now because we would make that path just one way going north and exiting on the residential street. But there may be problems in being able to go north to Templar [Way], and so it probably makes more sense to widen the road so you can have ingress and egress from the entrance to the church property.”
The Open Space Trust Committee is currently looking to meet with a landscape architect who will be able to determine more specific suggestions for the development of both properties.
Township Manager Barry Lewis added that he has been meeting with the Livingston Department of Public Works (DPW) to evaluate the extent of maintenance that will be needed at both properties.
More information will be provided during Monday’s meeting, at which point community members will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal or ask questions about both properties.
To join Monday's meeting, CLICK HERE and use the webinar ID and passcode provided below, or visit the Livingston Township, NJ Facebook page.
Webinar ID: 819 1522 2524
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