NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — In order to reiterate the community’s interest and enthusiasm for improving the town’s athletic fields and facilities, a group of North Caldwell residents have been attending borough council meetings to create a partnership on these improvements.

Led by John Rapkin and Josh Leitner, the group of dedicated local parents ultimately convinced the mayor and council to work together on achieving these goals.

At last month’s public meeting, the council gave Rapkin and Leitner feedback and input about the many considerations and challenges that go into decisions like this one. Rapkin and Leitner came back on May 24 with more men, at the suggestion of Mayor Joseph Alessi, to prove their commitment to getting these improvements underway.

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“I think it’s important for us to express our commitment to achieving this,” said Rapkin. “The improvements are something we feel we can accomplish in partnership with the town. We understand that beyond the town, there are other ways to help fund projects and as a group we are committed to helping do that.”

According to Rapkin, the group of parents has already taken some small actions, including a meeting with Councilman Joshua Raymond and Athletic Director Bill Maranz, who gave them a better understanding of different ways to fund these projects, as well as a preliminary conversation with a nonprofit recreation fund about hosting some fall fundraising events.

With the intention of creating a board of parents to organize these projects, Rapkin and Leitner also sent an email to a handful of people recapping the progress that has been made and the conversations that have occurred, which received comments from more than two-dozen households expressing their enthusiasm and willingness to get involved.

“Not only did we hear it, but we took some of your feedback back to the group and we’ve taken actions immediately after,” said Leitner. “There’s an audience big enough to impact, that’s on board and will have productive discussions toward how to fund these things. It’s got to be a combo of what we can do through various fundraising efforts, but no doubt about it, the weight of this as far as we can take it will be needed.”

Attending the meeting, according to Rapkin and Leitner, was one immediate action that could be taken to make it known that this is a priority amongst the residents of North Caldwell.

Now that the group has proved that there is a big enough audience to make material impact, much like it did with the acquisition of Walker’s Pond, the group is looking for more input from the town and its assistance in evaluating some of the prices of these projects. With the town’s partnership and support, the group can begin to prioritize these projects based on cost, difficulty and necessity.

“Walker’s Pond is a great example of when there’s sufficient motivation and same backing, something will get done at material impact,” said Leitner. “I think everyone’s view is, ‘The town’s interested in hearing us, let’s give them the feedback and hold each other collectively accountable.’”

During the next follow up, the council asked that everyone come ready with plans and ideas so they can keep the momentum of the shared commitment going in order to make those desires a reality. The group agreed to come forward with a rational proposal of exactly what the citizens need in both the near and long-term future.

“It will take time to see these improvements,” said Raymond. “Ultimately, unfortunately, our kids may not see these improvements, but we all understand and agree that this is what’s better for the town.”