I recently read the position letter from the Doll-Peterson campaign about our parks/fields and have to take exception to the vast majority of its content. I was in favor of the County Park at Oakwood because we have a Recreation Master Plan that was put together by people such as Kevin Carroll, Arlene Regan and Tzu Lin Toner. There was a clear roadmap to address our poor field conditions. As with most plans, none of them come with funding. The County Park referendum asked the people of New Providence to make a tough choice; take the County’s money (which is in fact the money we send to them in open space taxes each year) and sell them 15 acres of our parkland. Unfortunately, the County Park Referendum didn’t pass and the people of New Providence voted against selling the park to Union County by 2 to 1 margin.
At the time, as the NP Soccer Club President, our teams and program needed better facilities due to countless number of rain outs. I worked with Jim Madden and the NP Athletic Foundation on the Lieder Field Turf & Lights Project over 10 years ago. Despite that success, we still needed more reliable fields for Soccer, Lacrosse and all the other programs, as outlined in the Recreation Master Plan. Raising money by shaking the can was rewarding, but very difficult. Thankfully Mr. Madden never gave up the promise he made to the kids of New Providence to implement the Recreation Master Plan recommendations. Along with Bob Robinson and Rob Munoz they consulted every youth organization, interviewed residents and held public meetings, which allowed ideas to be shared across the entire community on not just fields, but parking and field scheduling, etc.
Instead of complaining, I decided to get more involved by joining the NP Community Activities & Advisory Board. I quickly learned the inner workings of our town council and the amount of funding required to keep New Providence the great place that it is. Every council member was extremely forthcoming, accessible and always looking for fresh ideas. Most importantly, I couldn’t believe the level of commitment the council members had for New Providence.
As the Vice Chairman of the Community Activities & Advisory Board, we discuss all types of issues, projects and concerns that deal with Recreation. Dr. Robinson, as our Council Liaison, connects our volunteer board with the Borough Council with great efficacy and complete transparency. You can see how results are better when so many residents, from all walks of life, are involved in the process. Hillview won an award, and certainly Oakwood will win an award when it’s completed.
In closing, I remember when our family moved to New Providence and how poor/unreliable our playing fields were at the time. We are very proud of our facilities today, especially Oakwood Park. Despite the outcome of the Referendum to sell Oakwood Park to Union County, the end result today is in my view is excellent. Our Rec Master Plan is still not fully implemented, but thanks to the leadership of Jim Madden, Dr. Robinson and others, we are in much better position to succeed. I’m supporting Bob Robinson and Nadine Geoffroy for Borough Council for many reasons, but moreover that they are in tune with the work underway to improve our parks and fields. It’s quite clear the other candidates aren’t fully informed or involved currently.