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.
“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.
CLINICS, LOCKUPS AND BAND SHELLS
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.
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.
HISTORICAL EXHIBIT GETS HUNG UP
A potentially controversial historical exhibit apparently has been shelved, however.
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.
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.”