By Jaimie Julia Winters
Portions of the $900,000 Edgemont Park upgrade are not meeting with the approval of seniors who frequent the park house.
Along with other improvements planned throughout the park, plans call for the parking lot to be aesthetically overhauled from a blacktopped square lot to one with a curved Belgium block driveway with grassy areas. Ultimately the driveway would be S shaped with parallel parking and that is where the problem lies, said Ann Lippel, chairman of the Montclair Senior Citizen Advisory Committee (SCAC).
“Seniors would have to park farther away. Walking to the building and back would be dangerous due to visibility and lack of sidewalks. And parallel parking especially on a curve would be more than difficult,” Lippel said.
Councilman Rich McMahon agrees.
“It’s pretty, but not functional,” McMahon said about the plans for the lot.
While the seniors got a glimpse of the plans on March 16 and began voicing their concerns, McMahon drove by the construction site two weeks ago and said he immediately noticed the problems with the S shaped drive and parallel parking.
While the current lot does not have delineated spaces, it holds about 20 cars in which motorists head-in park. There is one entrance and exit. The plan calls for 13 spaces, two of which will be handicap, and parking for a bus. The circular or S shaped drive would create a separate entrance and exit.
When plans were announced in the fall, John Cronogue, a member of the Friends of Edgemont Park steering committee, said the U-shaped driveway would create a create a better flow of traffic and that the number of parking spaces would be about the same as what is currently offered.
McMahon said landscaper Eric Von Hoffmann and township engineer Kimberli Craft met last week to overhaul the plans creating six to eight head-in spaces in the area closest to the building.
The Belgium bricks will have to be lifted and moved, he said.
Park construction was to be completed by May 1, for May in Montclair, a month-long festival of art shows, concerts, and garden and park tours.
Craft did not return an invitation to comment on the new plans or if the May 1 deadline would now be met.
Lippel said she is grateful for the response of town officials, but contends the mishap and potential delay could have been avoided.
“SCAC was never consulted about these plans. For over 30 years, the master plan calls for all policy and planning for our seniors to be brought before our committee,” Lippel said.
In addition to a new parking area in front of the house, plans for 15.5-acre park include matching decorative benches and gaslight-look lights, widened paths and two new water fountains with three levels—standard, lower for the handicapped and ground level for dogs. Thirty trees will be planted, as well.
Abraham General Construction LLC of West Orange is doing the improvements. The money for the improvements includes $600,000 from a bond ordinance, $320,000 left over from Union and Park street improvements, and $23,000 from a Green Acres grant.