Another hurdle has been cleared in the Miry Run saga.
A preemptive plan was set at the Dec. 3 Robbinsville Township Council meeting, laying the groundwork for a multipurpose recreation and community center, gardens and other spaces.
Township administrator Joy Tozzi instituted a virtual suggestion box in September, several months after a March town hall meeting was cancelled due to COVID-19. The meeting was set to gain community input about the Miry Run space.
“We wanted to ensure a public process and be as inclusive as possible with passive recreation as the focus,” Tozzi said. “We received perspectives from the senior community, the school community and multiple civic organizations. We have reached out to every age and nationality in the community, in addition to our professionals and staff. We have done our due diligence, and anyone we may have missed were encouraged to write to our virtual mailbox…and they did so in very encouraging numbers. That input will enable us to create a public space everyone can be proud of.”
The revamped facility is set to feature a 19,200 sq. ft. community recreation facility, featuring a multipurpose floor for basketball, volleyball, pickleball and badminton courts. That building is currently in the final design stage and is expected to be completed late next year.
A large picnic area is also in the design stage, said township zoning officer Ann Bell and recreation department manager Kevin Holt at the meeting. Amenities include space and seating for 200 people, a kitchen, grills and bathrooms.
“This will be an excellent recreational location for families and organizations to use for a number of activities,” Holt said.
The township is also working with Mercer County to create a nesting habitat for insects, bees, butterflies, birds and small animals, and community and butterfly garden spaces are also planned for the 158-acre parcel. A local Girl Scout will complete a portion of the garden as part of her Gold Award project, Holt said.
Bell said this plan was the result of a couple of years’ worth of community outreach and discussions with recreation organizations, government officials, religious organizations, residents and other groups. That work, plus the feedback from Tozzi’s virtual suggestion box, yielded a number of ideas, from a drive-in theater area and free food forest to a meditation garden and rock climbing.
The former Miry Run club is bordered by Sharon Road and Spring Garden Road and is adjacent to the Trenton Robbinsville Airport, where planes used to land just off the 16th fairway and 17th green. Thirty acres of the old golf course will be used as a buffer between the park and airport.
The space currently houses the township recreation department, which relocated in the spring, as well as a police training facility. Mayor Dave Fried previously announced in his May state of the township address that Robbinsville would soon break ground on a new athletic facility where the country club’s pool once sat.
The plans put the end of a five-year saga in sight. Miry Run Country Club shuttered in 2015, and the township tried to negotiate a purchase of the property that same year. The then-owners of the property, Spring Garden Country Club, approached Robbinsville with other potential uses of the space, specifically housing—which the property was not zoned for. The township then started to pursue the purchase of Miry Run more aggressively.
However, Spring Garden came close to a deal in 2017 with Titusville-based Sethi Development Corporation, who planned to construct a large banquet hall over 24 acres. Residents voiced traffic and noise concerns, and Sethi pulled its application in the face of backlash.
“I don’t think the property owner had a good plan for the property,” Fried said in 2018. “I don’t know the answer [to what they planned for the land].”
The space then sat idle for three years before the township was able to begin the ownership process by filing condemnation paperwork in November of 2018. Officials initially planned for the space to be used for passive recreation—walking paths, disc golf and other activities. There was also talk of converting the abandoned pool area into a township pool or splash park.
The next step came in the spring of 2019, when the township filed a declaration of taking. The property was finally preserved with help from a Mercer County Open Space Assistance Program grant. The grant provided $536,000, about 40 percent of the property’s appraised value.
“The township’s hyperaggressive open space policy has resulted in over 1,100 preserved acres since the start of our administration in 2005,” Fried said at the time.