FLEMINGTON, NJ – Things are changing at the county’s Department of Planning, Economic Development and Land Use.
Last month, the Hunterdon Freeholders named Barbara M. Vogel, a licensed Professional Planner and Professional Engineer, as its new director.
In that role, Vogel replaces Sue Dziamara, who retired. Vogel will oversee the county’s Divisions of Parks and Recreation, Planning and Land Use, Economic Development, Cultural and Heritage and the Rutgers Extension Services.
But that’s not all that’s changing.
Bill Millette, a county planner and open space administrator, told Flemington Borough Council last month that the county Parks and Recreation team is looking at expanding its active recreation facilities.
In the past, the county mostly left responsibility for active recreation facilities – such as ballfields – to the municipalities. But focus groups have told county planners “that’s not the best approach,” Millette said.
Presently, the only county park offering active recreation is Deer Path Park in Readington. But that’s something that Millette said is likely to change.
Millette said county planners will “look first and foremost” at existing county-owned land as possible sites for new ballfields. It will consider a number of factors in the process, he said, including connectivity to other parks and neighborhoods.
The county also wants to make the best use of existing facilities, such as those owned by non-profit groups, and will consider partnering with schools as it seeks to expand recreation offerings, he said.
Among the locations being considered, Millette said, is Clover Hill Park in Raritan Township.
“We’ve always looked at Clover Hill as a development opportunity,” Millette said in an interview, noting there is a sign at its entrance stating, “active recreation improvements planned.”
But Millette promised he’d consult first with the “consortium of residents’ nearby, who turned out in droves to a Raritan Township Committee meeting to object to planned improvements there which included artificial turf; soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball and football fields; basketball and tennis courts; playgrounds; walking trails; a field house; operational restrooms; and concession stands.
“I don’t know for sure if there’s an opportunity there or not,” Millette said. Those advocating for the improvements withdrew their plans because of the objectors – some of whom were local volunteer youth coaches themselves.
Since then, township officials have said they’ll look at other locations for new ballfields, including Lenape Park. A special Township Committee meeting has been set for July 9 to consider amendments to the township’s Open Space and Recreation land inventory. That meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building off of Route 523.
Millette said the ballfields won’t be built immediately and would be part of a 10- to 15-year plan. The county now has about 8,500 acres of open space for parks and environmental protection, he said, with a goal of adding around another 4,500 acres.