Townships submit wish lists for Burlco recreation grants

Posted: June 25, 2013

Ah, summer.

It's when meadows fill with clover, families head for the Shore, and township managers across Burlington County dream of bicycle paths, soccer fields, tennis courts, and, yes, toilets.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Board of Freeholders has loosened the purse strings on its Farmland Preservation and Open Space fund and invited the county's 40 municipalities to apply for a share of $5 million worth of recreation improvement grants.

Applications are due Friday, said Freeholder Director Joe Donnelly, who expects the board will decide by the end of August which towns get what.

The grants, which can range from $20,000 to $250,000, are wildly popular with municipal governments, Donnelly said, because "in difficult economic times, recreation improvements are often the first things that are cut."

The applications of four townships provide a glimpse of the range of choices the freeholders can expect to weigh:

Evesham wants to make improvements to four neighborhood parks.

Medford hopes to improve bicycle trails at Hartford Crossing Park and expand septic and parking at Bende Park.

Moorestown would renovate the running track at Memorial Field.

Mount Laurel seeks to develop a passive recreation park at its new Elbo Road Park with trails and a picnic area, and to install permanent bathrooms and a concession stand at Memorial Park.

"Our choices were pretty straightforward," said Mount Laurel manager Maureen Mitchell, who said this year's requests came straight from the township's master plan for recreation.

The township acquired Elbo Road Park, on Hainesport Road, last year and has since razed a modest house on the property. Plans call for adding walking trails, picnic tables, shade trees, and tables for games such as checkers at a cost of $50,000 to $75,000.

If the township receives a full $250,000 grant, Mitchell said, the rest would go toward installing permanent bathrooms and a concession stand at Memorial Park.

In previous years, the town used the county recreation grants to build community gardens, improve the veterans' memorial, and upgrade facilities for girls' sports.

Beth Portocalis, recreation director for Medford Township, said she recognized that some of the town's young people may be disappointed it did not seek more funding for skateboarding and BMX bicycle ramps at Wheel Park.

"But we thought we had a better shot" at getting a large grant, she said, by seeking to improve the bike trails at Hartford Park.

"The freeholders realize these kinds of [bike] trails are limited in the county, so we figured we'd get a higher ranking if we offered a shared service" that people outside the town would also use.

Improvements to the site would include brush-clearing and paving along the trails, boardwalks over beaver ponds, and expanded parking, and would cost about $150,000, according to Portocalis.

If Medford gets up to $100,000 more, it would expand and improve the septic field, bathrooms, and parking at Bende Park, where demand for the use of its soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse fields is overwhelming, she said.

Moorestown has its eye on rehabilitating the cinder running track at Memorial Field on South Church Street, according to Theresa Miller, director of township parks and recreation.

"This has always been on our agenda," Miller said.

Plans call for removing all the cinder surface around the quarter-mile track and replacing it with a rubberized polyurethane that is "a lot easier on the knees."

Concrete curbs and sidewalks around the track, which contains a soccer field, would also be replaced.

"People will love it," predicted Miller, who next Monday starts a one-year term as president of the New Jersey Recreation and Parks Association. She will continue to serve as Moorestown's recreation director.

"People are there [at the track] all times of day," she said.

Evesham, meanwhile, plans no showcase project. Instead, community development director Nancy Jamanow said, "we're targeting four neighborhood parks" for upgrades and maintenance if the county awards a $250,000 grant.

The parks range from three to five acres.

At Brush Hollow Park on Kenton Avenue, plans call for cleaning and overlaying paths, adding benches, recoating the basketball court, and replacing swing sets.

At Heathrow Park on Longhurst Road, the town wants to improve the basketball park, add benches, replace swings, and possibly add a tennis wall.

At Cambridge Park on Palmetto Drive, it would improve parking, recoat the basketball court, and add paths.

The only major addition to any of the parks would be construction of a walking path and benches around the perimeter of open space at Woodstream Park on Conestoga Drive.

Last year's grant was used to replace the 21-year-old wooden playground equipment at the Scott Rand Playground at Memorial Park with new equipment of vinyl and steel. The township supplemented the county's $250,000 grant with a $170,000 appropriation to expand the playground.

The recreation grants are part of the $22 million the county will spend this year on recreation, farmland preservation, and open-space acquisition, according to Donnelly.

Major projects the county is funding include conversion of the library building in Mount Holly to a county history museum, creation of an Underground Railroad museum in Smithville, and support for the Rancocas Nature Center in Westampton, which the Audubon Society last year announced it could no longer underwrite.


Contact David O'Reilly

at 856-779-3841, doreilly@phillynews.com, or follow @doreillyinq on Twitter.

 

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