UPDATED MASTER SITE PLAN
WEST WINDSOR - (January 22, 2020) - The Mercer County Park Commission presented its final Master Plan for consideration and possible adoption at the Commission’s Jan. 29 meeting at Mercer Oaks Golf Club.
The final plan reflects revisions the county says are a direct result of public recommendations. These include:
- Providing access to the Core Activity area from Old Trenton Road, rather than from Line Road
- Adding emergency responder water access at Line Road and at the Core Activity area
- Relocating a proposed maintenance shed away from Hughes Drive to the Core Activity area
- Removing trails from woodlands adjacent to Hutchinson Road and Miry Run
- Combining the nature-based playground and inclusive playground into one play area
- Reducing trails and relocating a plant nursery farther from Hughes Drive to better maintain the property’s residential appearance
- Providing evergreen plant buffers near abutting residential properties
The Master Plan is intended to serve as a long-term vision for improvements to the park, which will be implemented over multiple phases depending on funding availability and other factors. Of the property’s 279 acres, 17 acres, or approximately 6 percent of the site, would be disturbed for trails, parking and other park visitor facilities — the majority of which is limited to previously disturbed areas.
Concerns from the public have ranged from traffic and safety, to parking, and cost. Published reports have put the full vision of the planned park by the architecture firm Simone Collins at a pricetage of $19 million.
Mayor David Fried told nj.com on December 14 that he was initially concerned with the amount of active recreation that was originally proposed for the project, and the Country has made adjustments accordingly.
“I think the County has done a good job listening to residents’ concerns and revising the plan as they go,” Mayor Fried said. “I think overall this park is going to be a positive for residents, and environmentally, it will be a win.”
The latest public meeting was held November 12, when a draft plan was presented to the public, which then has 60 days to provide feedback to the county. Based on the feedback, the county will finalize the plan and present it to the parks commission, who then will make the decision to ultimately approve it or not. Township Administrator Joy Tozzi and Director of Community Development Hal English - a non-voting member of the Dam Site 21 committee - are representing Robbinsville constituents at the proceedings.
In 1979, Mercer County purchased 279 acres to build a passive recreation park and one of several dams as part of a flood mitigation initiative known as the Assunpink Creek Watershed Water Works Plan. The dam was built, but the park was never developed. The land, which borders Hamilton, Robbinsville and West Windsor, has sat empty ever since. The dam was constructed in the mid-1980s, and created a lake of almost 50 acres. The surrounding land comprises undeveloped uplands, wetlands, woodlands, open meadows and farm fields. Today there is limited public access and few amenities in the park, but the public uses the area for activities such as fishing, kayaking and hiking.
The initial plan showed that approximately 95 percent of the land area will be targeted for habitat enhancement or designated for long-term management as natural areas, where efforts would be taken to remove invasive plant species and enhance the habitat while protecting water quality along the Miry Run. Approximately 10 acres of park land (approximately 5 percent of the land) is identified for park improvements in this initial plan of ideas.
The proposed nature-based playground and an inclusive play area, which would have been the only portion of the park located in Robbinsville, was relocated to the West Windsor portion of the property on the revised site plan.
The other proposed improvements include:
• Several types of trails and boardwalks that total approximately 7 linear miles. This includes a tree canopy walk through an area of vernal pools.
• Parking lots and driveways
• Small restrooms and pavilions
• A group camping area that would accommodate about 30-40 campers
• Kayak launch and water trail
• Fishing access areas
• Protected swimming area for a limited number of swimmers each day
• A native plant arboretum and horticultural garden
A portion of the Capital to Coast Trail runs along the northern side of the lake from Line Road in Robbinsville to Old Trenton Road in West Windsor. Township residents of Combs Road also would be impacted.