BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Director of Recreation Tom Barton and volunteer with the Recreation Commission Debra Varnerin gave council members an overview of what’s new, what’s coming, and how it will be funded Tuesday night.

What’s new is the John Laposky Memorial Home Run Derby planned for Saturday, April 6, at Snyder Avenue Park, at the conclusion of PAL Opening Day activities.  The parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. from the Little Flower parking lot. Participants will come down Snyder Avenue to Snyder Avenue Field, where there will be ceremony on the field. After that marchers will grab a hotdog, play a couple of T-ball games on the field, then start the Home Run Derby at about noon. It will cost $20 to participate.  This will be the kick-off event for the 501(c)3 which is being set up by the Recreation Commission.     

Barton said the commission is in the process of setting up the 501(c)3, “Friends of Berkeley Heights Recreation Commission,” for future fund-raising activities. There is an account at Investor’s Bank and the commission has already received some donations.

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Varnerin said “This is the first fundraiser and we are partnering with PAL.”  She said since the Recreation Commission’s presentation to the council was pushed back a couple of weeks, they relied on Facebook and other recreation sites to get the word out about the Home run Derby. The response from residents was good and they now have a fundraising committee of about 15 people “which is great,” she said. The committee is made up of a lot of people from different sports and PAL, she said.

The Commission is also planning on holding a Father’s Day One Miler and selling reusable water bottles, with first and last names engraved on them to be used at the Summer Camp. Both these projects will help raise money for the 501(c)3. Other projects they have penciled in on their to do list are adding shade structures at Memorial Park by the playground and the long overdue updating of the Recreation Master Plan.

The summer camp will run again this summer – last year there were an average of 310 children attending the camp each day – with a total of 570 resident children enrolled throughout the summer. Barton credited Carolyn George for all the work she did on-site, including managing the 70 staff members.  The camp, which will run for eight weeks during the summer, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., is for Berkeley Heights children from Kindergarten through kids entering seventh grade. Find out more about the camp here.

During 2018, the Recreation Commission began a field-usage fee on a participant basis which is imposed on camps that rent the fields and the groups that use the fields. Revenues from the seasonal programs also has gone into the Field Improvement Fund. Those funds allow the commission to do several things with the “Union County Rec Trust Grants,” he said.

Over at Memorial Field, a new sidewalk has been added so people can walk to the existing sidewalks and from there over to Plainfield Avenue so they can safely reach a crosswalk to the train station.

Next to the playground an Eagle Scout has put pavers and built picnic tables at the park.

At Lower Columbia Field, mulch has been added to the walking paths. Last spring lights were replaced at the basketball courts, which hasn’t been done since the ‘60s.  In the fall, lights were replaced on two of the tennis court poles.

In the fall, the project on the three fields on Horseshoe Road was finished and now that the fields are being used, the coaches are pleased with the results and “the guys from DPW are finding it easy to work with,” Barton said.  Last week, the vendor came out and met with about a dozen baseball coaches and “gave tips on how to maintain these fields so they will last a little bit longer,” he said.

 At Snyder Avenue Park, the scoreboard was used for youth games, the Snack Shack opened, there were signs installed along the fence line reminding people no gum, bikes or food were allowed on the field, “which helps with the maintenance on the field,” Barton said.  The mayor asked if there were “No Cleats on the Field” notices on the fence and learned there weren’t.

Barton said, “No cleats in the living room, no cleats on the turf,” and said he would ask the county if they could amend the signs to include “No cleats.”

A snow pusher attachment to be used on a Bobcat was used two times – It worked well and allowed practices to start almost immediately after the snow was cleared.

Varnerin said the results from the Recreation Survey were “a little bit surprising.” They will follow up on that and hope to have more specific information. A total of 310 people responded to the survey.

Among the surprising results were that seniors wanted more senior programs, that the number one ask from survey responders was for jogging and bicycle paths, that 93% of respondents would support funding improvements at Columbia Field, Varnerin said.