For more than a year, a has been a project in progress for the community, but some of the residents near the site are wondering how it will affect the neighborhood.
There were many mixed feelings in the surrounding community about new stadium lights and felled trees, but the complex also represents another community epicenter where neighbors can gather.
“I’m glad it’s here. I’m excited,” said Steve Cassarino, pastor at , directly across from the fields.
“It’s our desire as a church to serve the community, and the complex gives the opportunity,” said Cassarino.
Community was a minor concern to other nearby residents when compared to the personal burdens the softball complex may impose.
Robert Bressman has been a North Bay Avenue resident since 1998. With the five fields and playground added to his area, he believes the neighborhood will change for the worse.
Bressman said he is expecting the head-on parking that faces his house and the stadium lighting to be a nuisance; the smokers who may congregate closer to his house and away from smoke-free park to be a hazard, but most significantly, he considers the debris of construction pollution and disrespectful to the wetlands behind the complex.
“I went to a council meeting and that’s how I found out about it. The first time I was notified was a note from the architect for the 30-day public comment,” said Bressman.
Robert Chankalian, Department of Engineering director, said the public was notified of the project via multiple notices, in print and online. The process started with an application mailed March 19, 2010.
“It was not done in the dark. There were tons and tons of public hearing meetings,” Chankalian said.
“If there were any adverse comments,” said Paul Shives, township administrator, there would have been no moving forward.
The main focus of the project is to create a municipal softball complex, as baseball already has two complexes in Toms River.
“The boys have two locations. Each has seven, eight, 10 fields,” Chankalian said.
Lisa, a North Bay resident, saw both sides of the fence: the benefit to her softball-playing daughter versus the increased traffic during games, potential eyesore of stadium lighting and the possibility of a rundown township park.
“Toms River has so many underutilized parks. Maintenance is disgusting,” said Lisa. The only tree buffer left are a handful of “ugly, crappy oak trees.”
With a 45-mph road, “I can’t get out as it is,” said Lisa, who said she has been hit on several occasions coming out of her driveway.
“I’m torn. It’s great for my daughter,” she said.
She believes there's an impact to real estate values, too, as not many homebuyers are looking to move into foul ball territory.
“It’s killed property value. This has now hurt us,” said Lisa.
Aside from property value, aesthetics and increased traffic, Bressman and Lisa both mentioned a longtime neighbor who is a registered sex offender and the township's knowledge of his proximity to the park.
Anthony Merlino, assistant township attorney, said “The location of sex offenders cannot dictate where the township decides to construct recreational facilities. If that were the case, recreational facilities might never get built.
"The presence of sex offenders is a reality towards which all communities must remain exceedingly vigilant, but not live in paralyzing fear of. From the township’s perspective, these fields are a worthy addition to our outstanding recreational complexes that parents and children should enjoy without reservation.”
The 26-acre site was formerly known as the Epstein and Frankenburg poultry farms. The site is on the east side of North Bay, while residential properties and the church are on the west side of much of the avenue.
North Bay neighbor Meredith Burke welcomed the softball center as a compliment to the community.
“It’s nice; something for the community,” said Burke, although she showed concern for parking during large tournaments.
Long time Trinity Fellowship member and recent North Bay resident, Edward Anderson, did not have a complaint about the new landmark.
“It’s a good idea. Anything for the youth is good for the community,” said Anderson.
Maintenance was his only concern: “As long as its taken care of by the people that use it.”