Friday, March 6, 2009

Maplewood Environmental Advisory Committee Meeting

By Kaja Stamnes

At the monthly Maplewood Environmental Advisory committee meeting, the hottest topic was the debate over what to do about Earth Day. The meeting, held this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Maplewood Library had an agenda that began with a run-through of newly created sub-committees, and moved on through more important topics of environmental concern. While Earth Day played a starring role in the event, another issued included the continuing debate over the type of field to be used in the recently confirmed make-over of DeHart Park and Recreation Center. Also, defining the roles of the subcommittees in relation to the Township committee was discussed. The general purpose of the meeting was to address the tasks the committee would need to take on in the next few months..

The Environmental Advisory Committee consists of 10 people, appointed by the local Township Committee. The Official Town Website of Maplewood lists the EAC's responsibilities as “[T]o advise [The Township Committee] and the municipal government on environmental/green issues including climate change, recycling, clean air, clean water, and protection against health threatening contaminants. The Committee is also responsible for coordinating the annual celebration of Earth Day and developing educational programs for the community.” The Chairperson, Robert McCoy, led the meeting and Deputy Mayor, Fred Profeta, was there to represent the Township Committee.

The main topic was the Earth Day Event. The committee tentatively set the celebration of this day which technically occurs on Wednesday, April 22, for the following Saturday, April 25. The most important part of this day is the Rahway River Clean-Up, an annual community event. The discussion of Earth Day was driven mostly by the desire to expand it into a week-long event this year, following neighboring Millburn Township's example. The EAC seemed to think that doing so would be possible with publicity from sponsors, and additional events and contests to get more of the community involved. They decided to appoint two people to head the Earth Day-Week conundrum.

A lengthy discussion centered on the EAC's opinion on which approach to take to the DeHart Park reconstruction. The members seemed to agree that an organic approach to the field would be better in the long run and more sustainable. Profeta, however, pointed out that the Township Committee's opinion on the matter currently would result in a 3-2 vote against the organic method. They agreed that the need to distill and present the basic factors which make the organic turf the most desirable and affordable option is very important to convince the Township Committee and other residents in its favor. Many residents were in favor of a synthetic turf field, and some EAC members acknowledged the fact that such residents might simply oppose any other efforts. That field maintenance must accompany the changes, regardless of the selected method, was also determined.

The four subcommittees that were created at the last month's meeting were quickly given a run-through to decide what issues they would address. The categories were Climate Change, Open Space, Recycling, and Municipal Ordinances and Planning. The last category posed somewhat of a challenge as Mr. Profeta was prompted to ask about the effects of having a “Municipal Ordinances” committee to the Township Committee. He seemed concerned that an ordinances with an environmental aspect would be held up and subject to the subcommittees review. The issue was resolved as EAC member and Convener of the Open Space Subcommittee, Dirk Olin, expressed his comfort with the flexibility of what he said “should be an ad-hocracy” emphasizing the group's ability to adjust to change, and play the role as an advisor to help the Township Committee, not a bureaucratic obstacle.

The EAC is hosting a “Green Drinks” fundraiser March 26th at the Maplewood Women's Club. Price is $10 per person, all the beverages will be organic.

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