Watchung Field
The Watchung School playground, adjacent to Watchung Field. ERIN ROLL/STAFF

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Parents are concerned over Watchung Field repairs and its expansion, which may take away a portion of the neighboring school playground.

Of Montclair’s priority projects, Watchung Field, used for recreation and scholastic lacrosse and field hockey, will be the single most expensive project. The field repairs have an expected cost of $1.3 million.

The field is home to the Montclair High School field hockey program, though it is not of regulation size to play varsity lacrosse games.

The field suffered heavy damage during a rainstorm in August 2018, lifting and displacing the turf’s infill layer. At the time, school athletic officials indicated that the field’s drainage system was a likely contributing factor. However, the field’s condition was found not to be to the extent that it would pose a potential safety risk, after crews did re-conditioning work after the rain, school officials told Montclair Local in August.

The architects were scheduled to start a survey of the field on Feb. 21. A date has not yet been set for putting the repair work out to bid, Superintendent Kendra Johnson said.

Of concern for some Watchung parents is what will happen to the school’s playground once the work starts on the field.

At the Feb. 6 board of education meeting, parent Selma Avdicevic said she had been informed that the revamped field would extend into the playground area, decreasing the playground by about 30 feet on its southern edge and requiring the removal of two pieces of playground equipment.

“Since Selma [brought] it up, we’re all very concerned what this means for the playground and outdoor space for our kids. There’s no mention of plans or timelines other than the budget being approved and upgrades needing to take up an additional 30 feet of space to extend the existing field. This would absolutely need to happen during the summer. Considering the district and school couldn’t manage to replace and hang six swings during this past summer, I’m not optimistic about this project,” said Heather Canale, who has a child in kindergarten at Watchung.

Johnson said that after the BOE meeting, the district asked its architects and engineers to take the playground into consideration in its survey of the field, but no further information was available at presstime.

According to the layout submitted with the Parette Somjen report, the scope of work includes the entire existing field, plus a portion of the playground.

It is also the home field for the Lacrosse Club of Montclair. Groups that use the field will be notified when a repair schedule is in place so they can make plans to use other fields as needed, Johnson said.

Construction costs are expected to be $1,090,000, with an additional $109,000 budgeted for contingency purposes. The remaining costs include $97,500 for architectural and engineering costs, $500 each for legal fees and reimbursable costs and $2,000 for permits and state fees.

The field is one of three athletic fields in Montclair that were found to be in need of an overhaul, the other two being Fortunato Field and Woodman Field. All three fields had gone at least 10 years without receiving major repairs.

KEEP LOCAL JOURNALISM ALIVE: MontclairLocal.news is free, but it takes consistent financial support from a community that believes local journalism matters to make it and our weekly print paper possible. Your sustaining contribution of $10 per month (or more) makes you a member, and gets you our print edition. Visit MontclairLocal.news/donations for details and to become a member today.