Somerset County has awarded $2 million to six municipalities this year for recreational open space.
The county commissioners started the program in January as an expansion of the county’s recreation grant program, which had focused on artificial turf athletic field development.
The expanded program now includes funding for active and passive municipal recreational spaces such as grass athletic fields, parks, picnic areas, trails and exercise paths.
One of the goals, county officials said, was to ensure that open space funds, which traditionally targeted large property acquisitions and farmland preservation in the county’s more suburban and rural areas, were also available to more densely populated communities without large available tracts of land.
The grants awarded this year are:
- Manville, $250,000 for its Lost Valley Nature Park in the borough’s Lost Valley section along the Millstone River.
- South Bound Brook, $350,000 for upgrades to Memorial Park.
- Bound Brook, $455,000 for improvements to its municipal pool at Codrington Park.
- Warren, $300,000 for the replacement of the pavilion at the Municipal Complex.
- Bridgewater, $350,000 for trail improvements at Camp Cromwell off Vosseller Avenue.
- Franklin, $360,000 for the development of a playground at Catalpa Park on Old Vliet Road.
“No matter what community you call home, it’s important for health and quality of life to have outdoor public spaces that are close by, safe and attractive,” said Commissioner Director Shanel Robinson. “By expanding our open space grant program to include development of new and expansion of existing public spaces in our more densely populated communities, we ensure everyone in Somerset County benefits equally.”
To improve the Environmental Education Center in Lord Sterling Park in Bernards, the Somerset County Park Foundation and the Somerset County Park Commission’s Environmental Science Department have launched the “Rebuild the Boardwalks” campaign to raise $10,000.
The funds will be used for materials to repair and replace sections of 4 miles of boardwalk trails that were damaged due to natural causes and wear and tear through use by pedestrians. Donations will be accepted until Dec. 31.
“The pandemic has rekindled the public’s desire for embracing nature and the outdoors. As a result, there has been a surge in pedestrian traffic at our parks,” said Somerset County Park Commission Secretary-Director Geoffrey Soriano. “Not only wear and tear from pedestrian traffic but the weather has damaged miles of boardwalk trails. We want to embrace the public’s renewed interest for nature and our parks by providing healthy and safe access to the trails, so these repairs need to be made.”
Volunteers and maintenance workers have been making repairs since 2015.
To date, the foundation has received $4,020 for the project.
Donations can be made online at boardwalks.givesmart.com or mailed to Somerset County Park Foundation, Attention: Rebuild the Boardwalks. PO Box 5147, North Branch, NJ 08876
For more information, contact Carrie Springer, manager of environmental science, at email@example.com or call 908-722-1200, Ext. 5324.
Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.