San Cap will revert to county

Township wants public to help keep San Cap fields for local residents


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  • PHOTOS BY ANN GENADER West Milford contractors are seen with their heavy equipment machines and trucks about 40 years ago - ready to start their volunteer project to build San Cap ball fields.





“I understand the county point of view and it is not unnecessarily unreasonable – but I’m here to represent the township.”
Mayor Bettina Bieri, on the county's response to her suggestion that the township remain in charge of the San Cap fields

BY ANN GENADER

When local contractors took their construction equipment to San Cap field and joined in a cooperative volunteer effort to create ball fields for the Township of West Milford decades ago, local people assumed that the fields would always be theirs. This is no longer the case and township officials have asked the public to join them in sending letters to the Passaic County Freeholders and speaking at their meetings, asking the county to allow the township people to maintain and use the fields - like they have been doing for years.

The mayor's suggestionMayor Bettina Bieri wrote a letter to the county administrator with copies to the freeholders asking the county to separate the property into two parcels - fields and trails - and to allow the township to manage the fields, thereby avoiding charging fees for ball field use by local volunteers. Bieri said at the Aug. 16 township council meeting that the county did not agree with her suggestion.

“I understand the county point of view and it is not unnecessarily unreasonable – but I’m here to represent the township,” said the mayor at the council meeting.

She suggested using taxpayer money that is saved in West Milford’s open space fund to offer to buy the section of the park where the fields are located from the county.

West Milford wants to be in charge of reservations by the members of the general public who apply to use the park when new regulations are in place.

Councilman Peter McGuinness was not present at the council meeting and the rest of the council was interested in hearing his input on the subject so discussion is expected to continue.

County taking over propertyOn Jan. 1, 2018 Passaic County is taking over the fields and is set to fully incorporate them into the Passaic County Park System. Up until now, seven acres of the 224 acre park were leased by West Milford. There are softball fields and a baseball field on the site. The parking area was located on the property that was leased to West Milford.

After the park takeover in January, county officials said the county will do field maintenance and upgrades at the field and make a footbridge to the parking on the other side of the property.

“We reluctantly agreed,” said the mayor. “We were given no other choice.”

The current Passaic County Parks web site publicly announces that people can apply for a permit to use the park.

Highlands Preserve hiking destinationIn April, the county earmarked $100,000 to create a prime hiking destination at Highlands Preserve (San Cap). The renaming of the park was announced at the same time.

During discussion at the council meeting, Councilman Lou Signorino questioned how the county got the property. Bieri said it was a purchase involving Green Acres money so therefore the township could not have exclusive use and others who want to use it cannot be turned away.

The park is adjacent to Abram S. Hewitt State Forest. Aside from the ball fields, the rest of the park is geared toward passive recreation and includes hiking trails that provide connections to the state forest.

In 2017, Passaic County partnered with the New Jersey Trail Conference to begin mapping a network of trails.

What do you think about the new developments with San Cap? GO to westmilfordmessenger.com and be part of the conversation.



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