Is Ice Skating the Right Plan for Walker's Pond?

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(Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 7:30 pm)

Tonight, the Mayor & Council will vote on whether to incur $2+ million more in debt on Walker’s Pond. The money, according to the proposed bond ordinance, will be used to dredge the pond, which will bring the Borough’s spending on that property to nearly $5 million since 2016. Every resident should know that dredging the pond is not legally required and is not required to keep the property as open space. A complete history of the Borough’s acquisition of, and costs relating to, Walker’s Pond is set forth on the Walker’s Pond landing page, which we encourage every resident to review.

But what is the Mayor and Council’s plan for this property? Where is the citizen open space committee to assist and guide the Mayor & Council on this property, similar to the preservation of the Livingston Horse Farm? All that we have to go on right now is the Mayor’s regular column in the April 2020 edition of North Caldwell Magazine, where he wrote that the Borough had already put out bids for dredging the pond to schedule the dredging as early as July 2020. But the authorization to bond for the dredging has not even had a public hearing yet (that's tonight). According to the Mayor, “[a]ll of this translates to ice skating in the near future.” (Emphasis added).

At the meeting tonight, the Mayor and Council should articulate, with specifics, what their plan is for the property. More importantly, the Mayor & Council should articulate who they have relied upon for determining the highest and best use for this property. Our Mayor & Council consists of seven individuals with varying backgrounds, but none of which appears to include any expertise in open space preservation. This 17-acre tract of land needs the expertise of many professional specialties in open space preservation and there are organizations, like The Land Conservancy of New Jersey, that offer that expertise.

As to the “ice skating” suggestion in the Mayor’s recent column, there are some issues that we believe must be accounted for before plowing ahead with this new debt. Some issues and questions that come to mind are:

  1. Does North Caldwell have the climate to sustain pond ice on which it is safe to skate? From the research we have done, sustained freezing temperatures are required to maintain the 5” ice thickness required for safe skating. After reviewing temperature data for the past few years, there do not appear to have been more than a handful of days that would support safe ice skating on the pond. While in 1953 there would have been dozens of skating days, the fact is that in this century, the current weather patterns do not appear to support ice skating on the pond.

  2. Do the pond conditions allow for ice skating? From the research we have done, ice forms fastest when water is uncontaminated, has no inlets, outlets, or running water around it, is not exposed to harsh winds, and has an even depth without underwater currents. But none of these conditions exist at Walker’s Pond. The pond has falls and drainage and thus moving water, is exposed to high winds, and is contaminated with minerals. All of these things mean much lower temperatures will be required to freeze the pond. It does not appear our weather patterns support ice skating on the pond.

Walker’s Pond should be preserved as open space for the benefit of all residents to use and enjoy. We do not need nor want another Pulte/Hilltop development and we do not want this property to meet the fate of Greenbrook Country Club (i.e., falling into the hands of a developer). We agree that the pond likely should be dredged as part of a long-term plan for the site, but there is presently no long-term plan in place for the site.

There are many possibilities to put this property to its best and highest use but that can only be determined with the input of the right stakeholders at the table. The residents of this Borough, along with the right professionals, have the ability to guide and direct our elected officials on handling Walker’s Pond. It is, however, up to the Mayor & Council to demonstrate their willingness to listen and follow the lead of the residents.

Make your opinion heard at the May 26 hearing on this matter.

Be there for one another during this time . . .

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