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A Grassroots Effort to Save Open Space

A new advocacy group is hoping to stop the use of Open Space trust funds for anything other than acquisition and preservation of Open Space.

The signs have sprung up like spring flowers on lawns throughout the township.

Moorestown Save Open Space, a simple message for passersby.

“We are appalled how open space funds can be used to fund the K.I.D.S. Initiative,” said Elizabeth Endres, who along with her husband Mark Hines started MSOS, an advocacy group advocating the use of Open Space funds for open space and its maintenance.

The organization arose out of the frustration the couple and many others felt after Town Council voted on April 11 to use $217,845 in to be used for engineering, design and bidding expenses for Phase I of the .

“We went home that night and felt we had to do something,” said Endres, who is a member of STEM’s steering committee, a fact she disclosed prior to being interviewed. “We knew there were so many people who felt as we did.”

Indeed, the people opposed to the use of Open Space funds for anything other than the acquisition of Open Space land and the preservation of those same lands have been vocal in their opposition to council’s use of the funds.

The group, which is separate from any other group in town, has its own mission.

“We want to get the word out that this is what happened,” Endres said.

“There is a groundswell of concern about this,” Hines said, noting that MSOS does not have an opinion on whether the K.I.D.S. Initiative should be done, just that Open Space funds should not be used for it.

The group held an organizational meeting April 28 and 45 people showed up. Since then they have distributed 100 signs and have a waiting list for more. They have a Facebook page and an online petition that has 160 signatures thus far.

“We are surprised at how enthusiastic everyone is,” said Endres. “These are really passionate people.”

“There is a sense of betrayal,” said Hines. “The funds have been yanked away and used for something most people don’t consider open space.”

The K.I.D.S. Initiative calls for improving fields and other recreational facilities at Wesley Bishop and John Pryor Parks. Improvements would include artificial turf, new parking lots and scoreboards. Improvements to the David Gentile Skatepark and the roller hockey rinks are also part of Phase I of the initiative.

The Open Space Trust fund is funded through a tax levy of 1¢ per $100 of assessed value. The township collects approximately $464,000 through the tax. There is currently $1.6 million in the Open Space Trust Fund. Another approximately $2 million is owed to the township from the state for previous open space purchases.

The Open Space Referendum was last voted on in 2007, passing 4,652 to 2,196 in favor of the tax. It is the interpretive statement from that vote that Hines and Endres point to as proof that the way council wants to use funds is not allowed.

The interpretative statement of the 2007 ballot initiative read: "the fund will continue to be used exclusively for the acquisition of lands for recreation and conservation purposes; development and maintenance of such lands; acquisition of farmland for farmland preservation purposes; historic property preservation or acquisition; and/or payment of debt service on indebtedness issued or incurred by the municipality for any of the aforesaid purposes."

And what is MSOS hoping to accomplish?

“We want to stop council from using Open Space funds and we would like them to rescind the April 11 decision,” said Hines. “Open Space funds are for a very specific purpose, not artificial turf and scoreboards.”

“Where does it end? This can expand to anything,” said Endres. “This needs to stop. That’s our mission.”

utr June 17, 2011 at 05:55 PM
If you signed up early, you paid $70/ kid . If you include field lining and yearly seeding, my guess is that $7- $10 of your fee goes to maintenance. This assumes 600 players. But that is only a guess based on numbers 3 years ago.
Moorestown High School Alumni June 17, 2011 at 06:13 PM
Those Moorestown High School graduates, who overcome their academic handicaps, eventually excel at the most prestigious schools in the U.S. and abroad. Ironically, the superintendent of Moorestown Public Schools system picks up on those Moorestown High School graduates, who eventually excell at the most prestigious first-tier academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Just as the Moorestown High School graduate begins or is about to begin his or her graduate studies at one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the U.S., the student will receive a very nice, congratulatory letter from the superintendent of Moorestown Public Schools to please telephone to set up an appointment to discuss one's future plans. After the ritual of congradulating the student and discussing his or her experiences studying in the U.S. and abroad, the superintendent will then almost beg this Moorestown High School graduate (turned prestigious academic) to seriously consider a teaching position at either the high school or middle school. Unfortunately, the superintendent lacked the funds to at least cover the tuition for the teaching certification coursework at the student's prestigious institution of higher learning. The superintendent also expected the Moorestown High School graduate to simultaneously cover all of one's tuition in an extremely costly graduate program. I was not the only student to be approached by the superintendent.
Moorestown High School Alumni June 17, 2011 at 07:02 PM
To make a long story short, the superintendent possessed the wishful thinking that the graduate student would be willing and able to cover all expenses to contribute three or so years to teaching in the Moorestown Public Schools system. The superintendent was hoping to get something for nothing, but he or she at least had the courtesy of apologizing for these unreasonable expectations. He or she was, in fact, doing his or her best to perform a job under the extenuating circumstances. These offers to students of academic excellence occurred a year before Ms. Hayes graduated from Moorestown High School in 1983. It appears that there continues to exist residents of Moorestown, who expect something for nothing by having others personally foot the involved costs to to their own detriment. Most children spend only four years in Moorestown High School and then move on to learn about the world existing beyond one's high school years. One graduates and moves on to greener pastures. Life does not begin and continue indefinitely at Moorestown High School by reliving one's youth through an exclusive group of innocent children. By diverting funds, one is expecting others to pay for something you want for free to enable your continual reenactment of your high school years. Paying fees to cover one's equipment for a child to partake in a private sports club is not the same as paying to the township a "user's fee" to cover the cost of maintaining the fields like Cherry Hill.
Moorestown High School Alumni June 17, 2011 at 07:50 PM
After observing KJL and Ms. Haye's arguments, it's very understandable why public school teachers burn out so very quickly. Does the $100 fee to join and partake in a private children's sports club include equipment, transportation to competitions in addition to the maintenance of the fields on which one utilizes? Have any of the people, wanting to divert the open [green] space funds to cover the primary expense of maintaining the field for the private children's sports teams, ever joined a private dog training club? The annual (every 10 to 12 months) fee to join a private dog training club costs between $250 and $275, plus a membership fee of at least $25 per month. If one wants to utilize the canine private training club's equipment to practice in the building facility to prepare for an upcoming competition, one pays an additional fee on top of all of the other fees. One also covers the cost of entrance fees and transportation to each competition. Basically, what one seems to be arguing is: I am willing to spend more out-of-pocket money on my dog than on my child. After all, it is no coincidence that so many dog training clubs exist in the state of NJ. To join a Schutzhund club is more expensive than a basic canine obedience training club - and the Schutzhund equipment is much more expensive. It's enough to become afflicted with an aneurism by listening to all of the specious arguments in favor of diverting the open [green] space funds to acquire more land.
KJL June 17, 2011 at 09:00 PM
I realize that facts don't matter to you but the $100 per player fact stated above is the amount spent solely on field maintenance. The overall fee to play is much higher and includes costs such as uniforms, umpires, insurance, etc. I also realize that you do not answer questions when posed of you....but what the heck, I'll try one more time....How would you define your term "private children's sports club ". Thanks in advance.
utr June 17, 2011 at 09:11 PM
KJL, What does that yearly 75K cover? Mowing , electricity, etc.... it seems high but I'd like to be enlightened. Baseball is a very well run club. I know that the town rejected Baseball's offer to fund all of their improvements which makes no sense at all to me. Like you Mr Loftus, baseball is a stand up org.
KJL June 17, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Those minor items are part of the Township expenditure. The MYBF expenses are for physical work on the fields themselves, backstop and fence repairs, amterials, etc.
utr June 17, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Do they also sod infields? I know the parents provide the labor to prep the fields so labor doesn't enter in to that cost or does it. It's got to be more then fence and backstop repairs to get to 75K yearly. I would think mowing or electricity was more expensive then mending a fence. How many baseball fields are there in town? Still sounds high to me but again I don't doubt the costs just think it would help me get a handle on this whole issue.
Keith Omlor June 17, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Ginger - why waste your time arguing with someone who has lost touch with reality. What does OS have to do with our school system? No one agrees with anything MHSA has posted. They are just posting stuff to agitate people because they are bitter with Moorestown and their high school experience. Instead of moving on with their life, they feel the need to try to put Moorestown and the school system down. I guess they are filling a void or trying to heal deep wounds. Nothing anyone says or posts will change their mind, so in the words of The Beatles, "Let It Be".
Jarvis June 18, 2011 at 02:12 AM
Thank you for this information. Assuming 600 kids at 70 bucks equals 42k a year. If 10 a kid goes to maintenance, that's 6k a year. what does that get us? Does the local government match it or is the federation on its own?
Papa Smurf June 18, 2011 at 03:03 AM
MoHiScAl - concisely put. I am sorry, but I got lost somewhere between 'cadger' and 'specious'. Let me get this straight. You are against the freeloading of OS funds for fields unless the field is designated for Chihuahua training, but only if the Chihuahuas remain in Moorestown after graduating?
Parks June 18, 2011 at 02:30 PM
We heard a shore community voted to bond 2.1M to build a "structure" on land reserved for open space? I guess there, they may not have used monies from a open space fund but yet built a "structure" on that open space? Could a "structure" I.e. "concession stand" or "scoreboard" be built? We thought Wesley bishop was not open space but yet recentlyt "designated" as green acres? This could get interesting.
Parks June 18, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Papa smurfing, now chihuauas could be a high school alumni!? I don't know if you'd like that?
Pete June 18, 2011 at 03:05 PM
Please define/describe the "structure" that was built.
utr June 18, 2011 at 03:15 PM
That 6 K went to seeding South Wesley Bishop field and maintain the lining. In addition to that Pete Palko donated a water truck to wet the fields to get the seed to take. We did this as a contribution to the town in an effort to make the fields less muddy when it rained. Unfortunately, the rocket scientist who were responsible for mowing the fields for the town set their mowers to the lowest setting in mid July and killed the field. Apparently, we have a new turf management company over seeing Wesley Bishop AND according to a RAC member THE FIELDS ARE SLOWLY COMING BACK. Which may be a reason enough to give them a season before we drop 3 million of public and private money. To answer your question the town did not match nor are they required. It is more of a non-profit giving back to the community for use of public lands. Pretty good concept, huh?
Parks June 18, 2011 at 04:23 PM
It was found that it was a preserved by county open space monies.
Oliver June 18, 2011 at 04:24 PM
For Green Acres purposes, “development” is the improvement of parkland with facilities for outdoor recreation and/or conservation purposes. Examples of development projects include construction of tot lots, athletic fields, running tracks, athletic courts, walkways, trails, boat ramps and boardwalks. Structures that will be used to support the outdoor recreation use of parkland (such as restrooms, maintenance sheds, or concession stands) may be constructed with Green Acres funds.
Parks June 18, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Hey Oliver or Dennis would an outdoor amphitheater , stage, gazebos, pacers, sidewalks, etc be included in what you say? Would it matter if it was bonded rather than using open space monies or green acres monies? What about skateparks or street hockey?
Oliver June 18, 2011 at 04:42 PM
I googled your question and this came up Q What types of projects are not eligible for Green Acres funding? For acquisitions: Any site to be purchased in fee simple to which public access is not provided; Any permanent conservation restriction or historic preservation restriction that does not provide meaningful public access as determined by Green Acres; Any structure that will not be used in support of outdoor recreation and conservation purposes, demolished to create open space, or preserved as an historic site; Any site that is, or is intended to be, used as a public road right–of–way; Any site with uninsurable or unmarketable title; or Any site that is already permanently preserved for recreation and conservation purposes, as determined by Green Acres. For developments: Any facility or structure that does not support outdoor recreation or conservation; Any facility to which public access is not provided; A professional sports facility; Any development that will significantly impair the land's natural resources, as determined by Green Acres; or Shore protection or beach renourishment or replenishment activities that are eligible for funding under the Department's Shore Protection Program, administered by the Bureau of Coastal Engineering in the Office of Engineering and Construction.
KJL June 18, 2011 at 05:34 PM
utr - your use of the "we" pronoun leads me to assume, since your identity is unknown, that you are involved in flag football. I strongly suggest that the folks involved with flag football, and lacrose for that matter, beg Pete Palko to continue his amazingly generous philanthropic efforts. Unfortuantely for Pete and anyone else that makes significant contributions to maintain the Township-owned fields, it seems as though Council has embraced Pete's donation practices as the norm....now they have suggested that someone donate their time/resources to fix the building at Swede's Run...and someone to donate or cover the costs of the new christmas decorations for Main Street...i am all for private contributions but is that how we are going to solve all of the township's asset maintenance problems?
George June 18, 2011 at 07:45 PM
Thanks Jack, Dennis & Ginger, I guess you all agree with my argument…………..since you can’t come up with a counter in the past month.
utr June 18, 2011 at 09:02 PM
KJl, I have it on very good authority, several members of Council went through the roof when Mr Palko had his crew installing town bought turf at Wesley Bishop for free. The reason for them being upset: his work could concievibly used against the council's agenda to implement the KIDS program. This is not rumor, I have seen emails from members of council stating such. Pete Palko is a very generous man and this town is lucky to have him. I think if he along with you (from what I've learned you have been more or less a voice of reason on the committee) would have been brought into the KIDS loop sooner, the bond refererdum would have passed and our fields would be improved, as we speak for a lot less money. Maybe the turf fields and the all or nothing attitude of some of the committee members would have been abated by profesionals like Pete and you.
utr June 18, 2011 at 09:03 PM
To answer your last question, unfortunately, we need to rely on private donations for these things. This council was elected to lower our taxes, yet people are being forced to sell their homes in droves and I'd be willing to bet a big reason is high property taxes. The town is shrinking and aging before our eyes (student enrollment drops by 15% in less then three years), people are tapped so raising revenue is not the answer reducing spending is. I'm not sure what has to be done to that stone building on Swedes Run but the MSOS people should step up to the plate and do it privately, put your money where your signs errrr mouth is so to speak. I'm sure Jake can get private support to decorate Main Street as well.
KJL June 19, 2011 at 01:25 AM
utr - I am shocked to hear that a councilperson shared an email from a colleague with you....very disappointing. I would love to see the email to see if it is being taken out of context...just seems odd that your fixing a field that was NOT part of the KIDS proposal would upset someone. It's interesting that you say the Council was elected to LOWER our taxes when the most recent additions to Council ran on a platform that included fxing Town Hall, which will raise taxes. The current council should be given credit for continuing the fiscal prudence at budget time that the prior Council initiated. Hopefully it continues. Your contention that reliance on private donations is to be expected will be put to the test when Council gets around to solving Town Hall....where will private funding come from to fix the admin...police...library...and rec buidlings? Can you imagine if council could solve those building issues without raising taxes???? Just like it can solve field repair and maintence issue without raising taxes....are you in favor of fixing those things if it can be done without raising taxes?
George June 19, 2011 at 01:34 AM
Now that's an interesting part of the requirements. Not eligible: "Any development that will significantly impair the land's natural resources". Would that then exclude artificial turf?????
George June 19, 2011 at 01:41 AM
utr, yeah, "that stone building on Swedes Run but the MSOS people should step up to the plate and do it privately,". Tell the MSOS people and Council to cancel the referendum that voters approved 2:1 in favor of OS taxation.
utr June 19, 2011 at 11:02 AM
KJL, You're not shocked. In fact you know what I say to be true. You even were pissed about it when it happened. Go to the beginning of this blog an d when I asked you about this subject, you replied "No good deed remains unpunished" As to the email, believe it our not there are several of our employees who are a little miffed that they are asked to do with less while Council debates $2-$3 million on an artificial field. As I have learned, they also like to gossip among themselves even sharing emails of irate Councilman about our favorite topic. I concede to your second paragraph, you are more right then I. Though, I was really refering to the election of Mr.(s) Gallo and Testa. I also agree that the Council has done a good job keeping our taxes from escalating. I happen to believe until this town comes to terms with a long term plan for where this government is headed they should continue renting. But that's a conversation for another day. Finally, I am in favor of fixing things without raising taxes. However, it needs to be done in a responsible way. Artificial fields are not ecologically, or fiscally responsible at this time. Private funding is a good thing.
utr June 19, 2011 at 11:08 AM
George, how about instead of canceling it, putting the tax on hold until we get through these next few years of recession. The referendum was approved when everyone in this town was flush with cash. I wonder if it would pass by the same margin now. As to fixing the stone house, why not do it privately? Just because the town has Open Space cash doesn't mean it has to spend it on what some would call an insignificant structure in the grand scheme of things.
utr June 19, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Your facts are wrong. Baseball spent an average of 54k IN 2007,2008 AND 2009 on maintenance. I can't believe that number would jump to 117K in 2010 to get to that 75K/year average. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2009/237/431/2009-237431805-06a6439b-Z.pdf
Ginger Hayes June 19, 2011 at 11:35 PM
You guess wrong George... we have countered many times and many ways. You just refused to listen. I absolutely DO NOT agree with you!

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