A long-delayed new park in Orange Township may be inching closer to opening.
Township leaders said construction issues, both at North Road Park and on surrounding land and roadways, along with inclement weather, administrative inefficiencies and more have delayed completion of the park, which sits on a 22-acre site near the intersection of North and Lewis Center roads.
A notable feature of the park is its cricket pitch, a first for the township. The park also includes five full-size soccer fields.
Work began in 2017, with the expectation that cricket and soccer play could begin in 2018. Township officials then hoped for a 2019 opening after newly planted grass didn't take hold during initial construction, but now that also seems increasingly unlikely, leaders said.
Construction to widen North Road and to add a roundabout at Lewis Center and North means access to the site has been limited, further delaying opening.
Trustee Lisa Knapp said she would like to see some movement on the park, even if it means a soft opening in the fall.
"The parking lot has been done. The grass is in but won't be ready for organized play until spring (2020). We finally have the sign design out for bids. The roundabout should be open by October at the latest. I'd like to think we could do a ribbon-cutting and at least make the park open, maybe in October," Knapp said.
Trustees discussed the status of the park at their July 29 meeting and will do so again Monday, Aug. 19, Knapp said.
Director of operations Bill Cowen confirmed the sign was out for bid and that the conclusion of road construction in the area will help pave the way for the park's opening. He did express caution regarding the seeding of the fields, which took place early this year.
"We can pull the barricades (across the entrance to the parking lot) whenever we want, but the (project) engineer's recommendation is to not use the fields for a complete year to let them take," Cowen said.
"The fields are intended for organized team play," Cowen said, adding he's been in contact with local youth soccer leagues and an adult cricket league in the Polaris area that have expressed interest in using the park.
"We'll definitely be in business next spring, and, of course, when the fields are not reserved, they'll always be open for use by township residents."
Knapp acknowledged there still is much work to be done, including construction of a playground and shelter house. She said the original design has plans for restrooms and a concession stand, but they may need to be reconsidered.
"It's been such a long time coming, and we've been working on it for too long," Knapp said. "We need to at least talk about whether and when we can start having the site opened at least so our residents can access it as green space, to walk or throw a ball around."