By Henry M. Holden
Morristown residents recently had that opportunity to share their designs of a new public park.
Morristown’s Planning Team and Project Designer held a public workshop in Morristown High School’s new Learning Center, in early November, to discuss a proposed new public park on Speedwell Avenue.
Landscape architect, Ken Smith, presented a 30-minute PowerPoint depicting a pathway winding through four green spaces ending in a lawn, surrounded by terraces, hedges, and trees. The effect, he said, “could be a garden-like feel more like a neighborhood,” or a series of “garden rooms.”
“It’s a challenging site,” said Smith. “Not just because of the narrow, 24-foot steeply sloped topography but by the variation in the width and length of the property. The 0.75-acre strip of land, bounded by Speedwell Avenue and Prospect Street, narrows from 270-feet long to 175 feet wide to just 35 feet across, with a change in elevation equivalent to a two-story building. So, it’s tight.”
Smith said, the yet to be named park “might include zigzag benches, exercise stations, chess- and ping pong tables and maybe a gas fireplace. The park might have a canopy of shade trees and seasonal color, paths of bluestone or brick, and benches or café-style seating to create the illusion of rooms within the garden.
“Even though it’s a tight space, we can create a good space, where people will want to be,” said Smith. “Lighting would be understated, along handrails, perhaps, or with strings of holiday lights.”
The target for completion is 2018, to coincide with the opening of the 185-apartment Modera 55 project. It’s part of a massive redevelopment of Speedwell Avenue that includes the 268-unit Modera 44 apartments and a CVS pharmacy.
The developer will provide $500,000 in funding, and a matching amount from the town’s proceeds of the sale of its former public works site to the Modera builders. The developer also has agreed to pay $50,000 for artwork, said town Administrator Jillian Barrick.
Morristown residents questioned how the town will maintain the proposed park, and what other activities officials will allow there.
“Initially, the developer will maintain the park with the town gradually assuming full responsibility,” Barrick said. The town also will oversee the scheduling of activities. “Like other parks in town, this one will probably be open from dawn to dusk,” she said.
“The park plans are ‘impressive and exciting,’” said Alice Cutler, a trustee of the Morristown Green. But she added, “The remaining concern is maintenance. I know how much time and money goes into maintaining the Green.”
Kristin Ace, a chair of the town Shade Tree Commission, suggested a bed of soft, fragrant thyme would consume less water than grass.
“The park should serve as a ‘healing space,’” said Ashley Anglin, a member of a coalition called Morristown United for Healthy Living. “Some residents fear gentrification will drive them out,” she said. “We need to think more about how people can use the space to enhance diversity.”
Brian Lozano, from the immigration advocacy group, Wind of the Spirit said. “I think the plans are great. My hope is that the programming and activities are inclusive, multicultural, and multilingual, so everyone feels included.”