RARITAN, NJ - In an effort to create more community-based activities and offer more sports opportunities, the Raritan Borough Council has introduced an ordinance to replace the current recreation committee with a team sports committee and a community programs and events committee.
Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin said several council members were asked to meet to discuss what to do on the events side because of a goal of having more community events in town.
“And on sports, it seemed recreation was running full tilt, if not overworked,” he said. “The conclusion was that this was the appropriate thing to identify a team sports side and an events side.”
McMullin said he is hoping to introduce events like a bicycle race and concerts in the park.
McMullin said 2016 was a tough year for recreation because the committee was very shorthanded.
“This year was a tough year with recreation because some people were too busy with work, others moved and so recreation was shorthanded,” he said. “In essence, it was something that I really wanted to fix.”
“One of the things that struck me at Riverfest was how magnificent the riverfront is, and wouldn’t it be nice to have concerts in the park?” he added. “I have been trying to champion a bicycle race, not like Somerville, but maybe with kids and young adults.”
After the council members met with recreation representatives, McMullin said, they said that in addition to increasing the events options, they wanted to increase the offerings on the sports side.
“One of the things we tried to get rolling last year was soccer, and it didn’t happen,” he said. “And we are trying to figure out a cricket offering. Our corporate population enjoys the game, and we have an increasing population in town, so we thought it made sense.”
McMullin said the next step was to figure out how to accommodate wanting to increase events and sports, and the decision was to create the two committees, rather than the one focused on all recreation.
“You have a more precise focus and can evaluate your progress,” he said. “I really wanted to do more community type events as opposed to commercial ones.”
McMullin said he wants to entertain the idea of having the bicycle race, and maybe concerts that would include inviting the jazz band from Bridgewater-Raritan High School to perform, among others. In addition, he said, they are looking at the potential to re-purpose fields at the Washington School to be used for other sports, like soccer.
“That’s really the formative thinking about it,” he said. “It’s trying to bridge where we’ve been and trying to project where we’re going.”
McMullin said they recently changed from a recreation commission to a committee, and when they tried to reappoint members, they found there were a number of people who were no longer interested or available because of work and other commitments.
“We got down to a lot of meetings canceled because of a lack of a quorum,” he said. “While there are people in the committee now that will be asked to move over to the new committees, it won’t be whole sale.”
McMullin said they are in the process of sorting out members and speaking to residents who might be interested in being part of either of the committees.
Overall, McMullin said the change is about filling a void and trying to create more offerings for residents.
“I saw a void that we weren’t projecting out what I think is a more vibrant set of events,” he said. “I think it’s the right time, and with the Washington School and hopefully a park becoming a reality, plus connecting with Duke Farms, it makes sense to expand events.”
“There’s more that I think would be welcome, and I think it has the added effect of community cohesion,” he added.