It’s Memorial Day weekend in Berkeley Heights, and many residents are observing treasured traditions.  We honor our fallen heroes, gather with family and friends, and for many adults and children, this weekend marks the opening of the beloved Berkeley Heights Community Pool, as it has for more than 50 years.  This year, though, it’s different but quite special.

First of all, many of us are breathing a huge sigh of relief. We came perilously close to losing BHCP.  In reading the social media posts lauding not just the pool’s opening but many improvements, I’m feeling grateful that we live in a community where partnerships between our municipal government and non-public entities are embraced.

Seeking a solution to several challenges, the volunteer BHCP Board approached the Berkeley Heights YMCA, as a like-minded community institution, about assuming responsibility for the day-to-day operations of BHCP. The time to act was short, but in actuality, the timing could not have been better.  After trying for years to find a new location for its expanding programs, the leadership of the Y was also seeking a solution.  Without new space, it might have to close the branch, leaving children, families, seniors, and those living with cancer without programs they’ve come to depend on.   Through determined outreach efforts, it became clear that the Y had the resources and interest to operate BHCP, replace our aging community pool with a new pool, and build a new Y facility at the Locust Avenue location.  It was brilliant but complicated and we needed support and involvement from the Township Council in order to turn this creative idea into reality.

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The Town owns the land on which BHCP was built, and since 1964, has leased it to BHCP.  So, the Town needed to agree that the Y replace BHCP as the leaseholder of the land, both the Y and Town needed to conduct due diligence, and negotiate new terms of the lease, all in time for the Y to open the pool by Memorial Day weekend. The leadership of the Y and BHCP, along with the Mayor and entire Town Council, worked through all the issues while keeping everyone informed and inviting public commentary.  Together, we found a solution that keeps BHCP in business, allows our Y to stay in town and build a better facility to serve our community, and provides new revenue to the Town over the course of a 50-year lease.   This critical decision also keeps this parcel of land recreational and provides services and facilities that benefit the entire community.

BHCP is in better shape than it’s been for years. The Y has been amazing.  In a few short weeks since the lease was signed, the team hustled to get the facility ready to open. And they’ve applied huge doses of TLC to BHCP.   The exterior and interior of the facility were painted, the interior of the building renovated, the bathrooms upgraded, numerous repairs made to the pool, the roof fixed, electric service upgraded, a new fence installed at the back of the property, security enhanced, landscaping improved, and to the joy of many, new chairs were purchased for the use of BHCP members.

And here’s my timely commentary, and it’s far more than a footnote to this story. Elections matter! The way our Mayor and Town Council focused on this project and worked so hard and fast to bring it all together underscores the value of responsible leaders focused on making Berkeley Heights a wonderful place to live.  Let’s keep these leaders—people like Jeanne Kingsley and Marc Faecher—in place and working to do what’s right for our community.   Please vote for Jeanne and Marc Tuesday June 6th in the Republican Primary.