Bordentown Township Committee OKs Joseph Lawrence Park expansion

Proposed expansion for Joseph Lawrence Park. Photo Courtesy of Bordentown Township Municipality
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Proposed expansion for Joseph Lawrence Park. Photo Courtesy of Bordentown Township Municipality

Bordentown Township’s Joseph Lawrence Park will expand in an effort to accommodate more local recreational and youth sports programs by the end of the year.

The Bordentown Township Committee passed a resolution at June 24 meeting to approve engineering services for an expansion to Joseph Lawrence Park.

The next step is the bid process for contractors while township officials hope to develop major recreational improvements on the site.

Township Administrator Michael Theokas explained that the municipality has owned a parcel of land adjacent to the park along Hogback Road that currently sits as open space and farmland.

After it had been brought to the attention of township officials that the area has a growing need for more recreational designated space, the township made a commitment to invest in the youth of the community.

“We found that in the township, we have a very large and growing need for youth field hockey and lacrosse programs, and they need a place to practice and play,” Theokas said.

Municipal officials announced at the June meeting that the Hogback Road land parcel is anticipated to feature four new full-size soccer fields, and property adjacent to the back of Joseph Lawrence Park is planned to be connected to it through bike and walkway paths where a portion of the property will be designated as a multi-use recreational field.

In addition to the multipurpose field, the township also plans to add multiple softball fields, which upon completion of the project will total five softball fields, one all-purpose field and four soccer fields.

Theokas reported that the expansion project is only “phase one” and of two-phase process to develop and/or designate more space in the township for recreational use.

Given the township’s high number of youths involved in athletic and recreational programs, officials said that the township has had to outsource its rec facilities to neighboring municipalities.

“Right now, Bordentown youth soccer plays on fields that are technically in Chesterfield, so [Mayor Stephen Benowitz] wants to bring those back to the township,” Theokas  said. “We have to begin to build our own fields, so this project is just phase one.”

Along with the expansion to Joseph Lawrence Park, municipal officials announced that they plan to develop more recreational facilities at Northern Community Park and received a grant in October 2018 to redevelop the former Dix Drive-In property.

The township acquired the Dix Drive-In property in on Route 206 in 2018 and received funding from a Burlington County Open Space grant totaling $250,000. Municipal officials said the grant will be used to construct new recreational facilities and to upgrade existing recreational facilities. The facilities are or will be used for youth soccer, softball, baseball and field hockey.

Township officials met with representatives from several youth sports organizations regarding the upgrades that are needed to the township’s parks and recreational facilities.

According to township officials, the long-term plans are to build a youth soccer facility at the Dix Drive-In property, with five soccer fields and recreation amenities.

In addition to the purchase of property for new facilities, the intended recreational amenities are planned to include additional softball fields, new dugouts, benches and other features for current grounds like Joseph Lawrence Park as well.

At Northern Community Park, township officials explained that they are working with Little League baseball and softball teams on a new batting cage, with the possibility of increasing and improving the current fields.

“We still have work to do at Northern Community Park where we want to add some baseball fields there, and we still have the Dix Drive-In property on our radar,” Theokas said.

Although no plans are in motion yet for the development of the Dix Drive-In Property or Northern Community Park, Theokas said that the Joseph Lawrence Park project is a big first step toward achieving the township’s ambition to reestablish its recreational programs, and represents a positive development for Bordentown residents.

“This project has been a priority for the committee, and we have had real great cooperation with our youth sports organizations,” he said. “These are the kinds of projects that are real exciting for the committee and the township because it’s a real tangible benefit for the entire community.

“Anytime you put together playing fields, parks and recreation facilities, it’s a real benefit for everybody,” he said.

Although grant monies were dedicated toward the proposed project for the Dix Drive-In property, Theokas reported that the township had allocated capital funds for multiple years in the anticipation to finance projects like the Joseph Lawrence Park expansion in addition to any grant monies the township might receive.

As the township prepares to move forward with the Joseph Lawrence Park project, Theokas explained that any upgrades or improvements in the community like this help reach out to the community.

“These are projects that everybody sees, everybody gets to use and it reaches a lot of people,” he said. “What’s exciting about this is that it’s only the first phase.”