PLAINFIELD, NJ - An update on Plainfield's Division of Parks and Recreation programs was provided by Superintendent Veronica Taylor at Monday's City Council meeting.  The overview included a look at current and future recreation programs, and how the department is working to provide job opportunities for Plainfield residents.

Taylor said everyone knows that the recreation department runs successful basketball, wrestling, and swimming programs.

"Some of the things that people aren't aware that we do are our workforce development programs."  Taylor noted that her division has received grants through Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs since she started in 2014.

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"We secured grants and we hired junior park monitors.  They're 14-year olds, which you all know that it's very difficult for 14-year olds to enter the workforce." 

Taylor said this all became possible with the CDBG grant, and the department's program teaches young people to become stewards of the three hundred acres of park space in Plainfield.  It trains participants on the history of the parks, educates them on the plants and animals that are native to the area, and teaches them how to maintain fields.

Another recreational asset, Taylor said, is the town's six pools.  "No other town in Union County has six free municipal pools."  She said that to operate them, the department needs a minimum of 60 lifeguards per year. 

Taylor added that other Union County municipalities have difficulty in finding, training, and keeping lifeguards.  But she said in Plainfield, through a CDBG grant, an aquatics academy has been created.  A $400 lifeguard certification can be offered to Plainfield residents for just $50 with the help of the funding. 

"As you know, we try to introduce diversity into the field of aquatics.  We have to make it affordable, so we underwrite it.  We make an investment in young people in this community.  We get them trained as lifeguards." 

Taylor said the department is able to retain many of those trained.  If they come back, and are interested in a career in aquatics, the next step is to take the class to become a Water Safety Instructor; it's another class that the department underwrites.  From there, interested parties have the opportunity to take the Certified Pool Operator course.

Taylor also shared that there is a Careers in Recreation club that meets with students who want jobs.  It's an opportunity, she said, to try to develop the workforce her department will need for aquatics and the parks system.

In 2019, Taylor said her department will apply for a CDBG grant for a basketball referee program.  She said, for instance, if a young person starts as a referee in ninth grade, stays with the program through high school, and gets in enough hours, he or she could qualify to referee Division III basketball games.

"We're trying to raise up the next generation of parks and recreation leaders," Taylor said.

For more information on recreation programs, call 908-753-3097.

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