Turf plans sowing seeds for bigger things on historic Morristown Green?

With the historic Morristown Green closed again this spring to recover from heavy foot traffic, officials are said to be considering a permanent cure: Artificial turf.

Synthetic grass, on the town square where Washington’s troops once paraded?  Sources called it the first step in a series of renovations intended to expand public uses of the popular two-acre park.

The historic Morristown Green is closed once again this spring, to recover from heavy foot traffic. Artificial turf could keep the square open year-round. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

‘THE GRASS NEEDS A SPRING BREAK,’ reads sign on the historic Morristown Green, closed for re-seeding. Artificial turf could keep the square open year-round. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“We feel it’s time to move into the 21st century,” said R.V. Winkel,  consultant for an ad hoc exploratory advisory committee preparing recommendations for the town.

The success of a turf field installed at Morristown High School finally convinced officials to revive an idea they have been kicking around for years, according to the adviser, noting he is optimistic after preliminary overtures to the New York Jets, who helped fund the high school field.


Sources say local officials are hopeful that turf can be installed on a portion of the Green in time for a July 4 celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary.

They also envision the Jets holding football clinics and even tryouts on the Green.

The move to artificial turf, which follows a pair of privately funded redesigns of the Green over the last quarter-century, reportedly is the first phase of an ambitious multimillion-dollar long-range capital campaign.

Once concerns about damage from foot traffic are alleviated, the Green can be considered for a broad range of exciting uses, explained Winkel, who declined to elaborate.

Sources said such uses may include a small dog park, sand sculptures and a permanent band shell, to accommodate events like the Mayor’s Jazz & Blues Festival, the Christmas Festival on the Morristown Green and First Night Morris County festivities on New Year’s Eve.

Start making your lists, kids. The Santa House is on the Morristown Green. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

NAUGHTY AND NICE?  The Santa House may double as the Kris Kringle Korrectional Facility if a new capital campaign for the Morristown Green gets off the ground. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The seasonal Santa House, beloved by generations of children, also would become a permanent fixture on the Green.

After Christmas, it would serve as a satellite police station and temporary lockup on weekends.

“Its proximity to the downtown bar scene makes it pretty ideal, from a law enforcement standpoint,” said a local official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official cited a precedent: The Green was home to the Morris County Jail until 1827.


A potentially controversial historical exhibit apparently has been shelved, however.

Diagram of gallows used to execute Antoine LeBlance on the Morristown Green in September 1833.

Diagram of gallows used to execute Antoine LeBlanc on the Morristown Green in September 1833. Source: MurderByGaslight.com

Present-day statues honoring George Washington, Revolutionary militiamen and Civil War soldiers would have shared the spotlight with a replica of the gallows where Antoine LeBlanc was hung in 1833 for a triple slaying dubbed “The Crime of the Century.”

LeBlanc’s execution attracted thousands of spectators; a special gallows was built for the occasion from an experimental design.

“It just raised too many liability issues,” Winkel said of the exhibit, proposed by the Colonial Society for Capital Punishment.

All of the Green’s expanded uses depend on the successful installation of synthetic turf.

WASHINGTON REDSKINS? OR PATRIOTS FAN? Sand sculpture of George Washington and football at 2013 Morristown Festival on the Green. Photo by Katharine Boyle

Every day could be Super Sunday, if sand sculptures like this are approved for the Morristown Green.  Photo by Katharine Boyle

Grass has emerged in recent years as one of Morristown’s hottest topics, from the debate over high school turf, to frequent closures of the Green, to whispers–later proven unfounded–about municipal plans to grow medical marijuana in a park behind town hall.

Winkel said he anticipates making a formal presentation at the next monthly meeting of the Trustees of the Green, the private organization that has managed the square since the Presbyterian Church in Morristown deeded it to the town in 1868.

“I think this has a pretty good shot,” said Winkel, whose firm, Sleaves of Grass Ltd., designed the first synthetic 18-hole golf course, near Munchon, North Korea.

“But you never know,” he added. “Turf battles have a way of cropping up.”

The Morristown High Colonials face Delbarton's Green Wave for Homecoming 2013. Photo courtesy of Morristown High School Football Boosters.

TRYOUTS ON THE GREEN?  The Morristown High Colonials may have led the way with their turf field. Photo courtesy of Morristown High School Football Boosters.



  1. Dan Fenelon says:

    April fools

  2. Betsy Harvin says:

    Oh thank you David Fenelon. My heart was in my throat as I read this. Totally forgot the date. You got me, Kevin. I owe you. Brilliant.

  3. Margret Brady says:

    Since I knew the Green was privately owned by 13 trustees, headed by Glen Coutts, I knew it had to be April Fools Day. By the way, did you hear that the mayor was recalled led by a former mayor because he proposed this idea?

  4. Marie Pfeifer says:

    This was a good one. The Kris Kringle Korrectional Facility tipped me off!

  5. John Grieder says:

    Kevin, you dog, you almost had me. Thanks for the laugh, though.

  6. Kevin Coughlin says:

    Hi John. It’s all spelled out in the fine print of the new master plan… page 149, I think. ;-)

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