2007-04-19 / Front Page

North Brunswick opens 105-acre park to public


Staff Writer

Tommy Ikuss, 12, enjoys a little soccer practice at the new fields at the North Brunswick Community Park, which was unveiled for the first time to the public during a dedication ceremony on Saturday.SCOTT PILLING staff Tommy Ikuss, 12, enjoys a little soccer practice at the new fields at the North Brunswick Community Park, which was unveiled for the first time to the public during a dedication ceremony on Saturday. NORTH BRUNSWICK - - April showers bring May browsers. And walkers. And runners. And athletes. And sunbathers. And pet owners.

Anyone seeking active or leisure recreation is now able to visit the North Brunswick Community Park, a 105-acres tract set off Route 130 that has been converted from the former Otken farm to accommodate a myriad of recreational uses for all county residents. The seven-year project came to fruition on Saturday with an official dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, in which the park was made available for the first time to the public.

"This park is an example of leisure services and opportunities we want all of our residents and surrounding communities to experience," said Lou Ann Benson, the director of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services. "In the 21st century, together, the North Brunswick community will remember the North Brunswick Community Park as a place where families, friends and neighbors gather together to experience global recreation where our fond memories will be created for a lifetime."

The park has three full-sided and three short-sided soccer fields, four baseball fields, over 15 acres of open space, a 2.2-mile gravel walking and jogging path and a fenced- in dog park. In the near future, the Girl Scouts will create a butterfly garden and two softball fields will be constructed, along with the completion of a maintenance facility and two concession stands. Phase II construction will focus on additional uses, such as outdoor basketball courts, paddleball courts, possibly an outdoor pool and a site for the summer day camp program.

"What is significant is that children will still be here and they will want to raise their children in the town. … This community now has every ingredient, including this park, for a rich, balanced quality of life," Mayor Francis "Mac" Womack said.

Residents were just as excited about the park opening. Karen Munck, 22, was impressed by the dog park and baseball fields, and was looking forward to holding a kickball tournament.

"I think it's great. It's nice and big and has lots of stuff for kids," she said. "It's a place to go with things to do. It's a place to come with the family. It's good to be outside."

She said she is looking forward to the future softball fields as well as possibly a basketball court or a playground for smaller children.

"I have a niece who's 3 and it would be nice for her to play around on the monkey bars or a slide," she said.

Liela Piracha, 9, said although a swing set is missing, she wants to visit the Community Park as much as she does the other parks in town, which is usually once or twice a week.

"It's really, really cool how big it is, how much stuff you can do," she said. "A lot of people can come here and have fun … to get fresh air, meet people and have fun."

In 2000, township officials condemned the property to meet the township's needs for more passive and active recreational space. The construction project began five years ago with the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and Open Space Committee members formulating ideas, with input from township residents, as to what park amenities the township was most in need of. More formalized plans were laid out and construction approval was authorized on Aug. 12, 2005, and the construction of Phase I was completed late last year.

The project was funded in part by a $1.5 million Middlesex County open space grant awarded last month by the Freeholder Board.

"You built a beautiful park and the residents of North Brunswick will certainly use this park. I believe the Middlesex County parks system is second to none," said Freeholder Director David Crabiel, noting that the county has preserved over 6,000 acres of open space and 3,500 acres of farmland.

The day also celebrated the opening of the baseball and soccer seasons, where local teams now have a home to play as opposed to traveling to various fields around the township.

"It is very exciting that the kids got new fields and the kids have a new place to play," said Rodney Reinson, president of the North Brunswick Baseball and Softball Association, of the nearly 500 children ages 5 to 15 who participate in the league. "We have a beautiful facility … and everything is centrally located."

In addition, there were several organizations present with information on how to save the environment, part of the green initiative led by the North Brunswick 2030 Committee. Student representatives Nicole Pecora and Bryan Gaeta were available to hand out pins, bracelets, pamphlets and energy-saving light bulbs in an attempt to combat the effects of global warming. There were also examples of adjustable showerheads, programmable thermostats and ventilation fans, which use less energy and save consumers money.

"This goes well with [the park opening] because we're not only giving people the opportunity of a new park, but we're also telling them how to keep their parks clean and how to save the environment," Gaeta said.

In addition, several environmentally conscious vehicles were on display, including the township's own 2002 Ford Escape hybrid, which is one of three hybrids currently owned by the Department of Public Works, the Parks Division and the Department of Community Development. In a few weeks a tandem truck will arrive, which will be able to use biodiesel fuel supplied by the county.

There was also a Chevrolet Suburban, which has active fuel management, being able to switch from eight to four cylinders; a Chevrolet Impala, which is E-85 ethanol compatible; and various hybrids, including a Honda Civic and Accord, and a Toyota Highlander and Camry.

"These days, when gas is sky-high, that would be the first or strongest advantage of a hybrid," said Honda salesman Muhammad Adnan of Open Road Honda in Edison.

He said hybrids are a little bit more expensive than regular vehicles but that in the long run, the benefit to the environment is greater because of less smoky emissions, as well as a government tax rebate of up to $2,500 for the purchase of a hybrid.

The dedication ceremony included performances by the Girl Scouts, the North Brunswick Township High School choir and Erin Regan, who sang "Hero" by Mariah Carey in honor of members of the armed services. DJ Phil Forti provided music while the band 9 Feet Tall was not performing; refreshments were provided by various local vendors.

To ensure the safety of all residents, permits must be obtained from the Parks & Recreation Department prior to use at the park. Residents can stop by 710 Hermann Road, call (732) 247-0922, ext. 475, or e-mail Lbenson@northbrunswickonline.com.

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