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Town considers construction in Institute Woods

Part of the Institute for Advanced Study Woods may soon become home to two soccer fields if the Princeton Recreation Department's application is approved by the state Historic Sites Council.

The recreation department has proposed constructing two fields and a parking area on about 4.8 acres of the 590-acre Institute Woods property near the intersection of Quaker and Mercer roads in Princeton Township, Township Attorney Edwin Schmierer said yesterday.

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As part of a 1992 settlement agreement, the Institute leased the 4.8-acre site to the Township for the soccer fields. Before the recreation department can submit its final application, however, it must hear recommendations from the Township Historic Preservation Commission, said preservation commission chair Maynett Breithaupt.

The Institute Woods now occupies the property where George Washington led his troops to fight the British in the Battle of Princeton, according to Historic Preservation Officer Christine Lewandoski.

In addition to its historic value, the Institute Woods property also holds special significance for many University students who run in the area. "We run there all the time," said Stephanie Doyle '00, who is a member of the women's cross country and track teams. "It's one of the few runs we have that are more scenic. You feel like you're running in the country."

Historic sites

"There are two sites for possible future use of soccer fields. Both are inappropriate," said Breithaupt. "The first one is on wetlands, and [the Institute Woods] is considered one of the most historic and untouched landscapes in New Jersey."

Breithaupt said the construction plans might be acceptable to the Township Historic Preservation Commission if the fields did not have a negative aesthetic impact on the view. "The proposed area interferes with the view from the road of an agricultural landscape of barns, oatfields and cornfields," she said.

Schmierer said, however, that the fields would be tucked into the tree line, making only the entrance visible from the road.

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Though the recreation department has yet to make an official application and the preservation commission has not responded with a final recommendation, Breithaupt said she expects the department to have an "uphill battle" with the state Historic Sites Council for approval.

Schmierer said, however, he did not foresee much opposition to the proposal and that he expects construction of the fields within two years.

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