By JULIE FIGLAR
One of the many reasons my husband Jason and I chose to move to Berkeley Heights was to start and raise a family in a town with the wonderful quality of life it offered. (Being a teacher in our great school district didn’t hurt either!) Now, Rina Franchino and I are raising our young families in Berkeley Heights and are committed to the long term prosperity of our town. With our young children all actively involved in sports and the community, we see areas where Berkeley Heights can be even better!
For years, leaders have talked about improving the quality of our fields and offering additional recreational opportunities. There is no doubt that our Recreation Department and Commission does a great job with their given resources, and the County continues to be generous in providing grant funds. Just this year, thanks to the new leadership of Mayor Angie Devanney and Team Purple, we’re finally seeing some progress with the fast tracking of the turf replacement at the Snyder Park’s multi-purpose field and an overall improvement in field maintenance resulting from the restructuring of the Department of Public Works (DPW).
However, we need to take the next step in truly improving our fields and recreation facilities – for residents of all ages. As Mayor Devanney said in her campaign last year, progress can only come from leadership that brings together the different stakeholders: the PAL, the Recreation Commission, Berkeley Heights Youth Soccer Club, the Township, the Board of Education (BOE) and the County of Union. We can’t afford to be in separate “silos” anymore; we must pool our collective resources, knowledge and experience and prioritize a long-term plan to improve and increase our playing fields and recreational opportunities.
If elected, I propose that we add a non-voting Council member to the Recreation Commission. That member will be responsible for reporting on fields and recreation during Township Council meetings, helping ensure our elected officials are well aware of plans being discussed to make these much-needed improvements. This will also allow our local leaders – from the top down – to help secure the money and resources to meet our recreation goals. For us to make considerable progress and improve our fields to the level of our neighboring towns, we need to get out of our silos. Improved coordination and communication is the key to success in the next decade. This non-voting Council member will be the key to ensuring all relevant stakeholders are on the same page and are “all in” on each and every recreation project. This “power in numbers” will allow us to make progress like never before.
I would like to become that “point person” on Council and take on the changes we need to make for Berkeley Heights’ sports and recreation venues to be worthy of our quality of life (and the taxes we pay for that quality of life). Here are some examples of additional things we can do:
- Establish a formal joint taskforce to ensure repairs and improvements of our sports fields takes place. This coalition of stakeholders would partner with groups like the Grants Committee to obtain additional funding for upgrades (covers for dugouts, new/repaired fencing, landscaping, bathrooms etc.).
- Help to ensure a new turf baseball field to be completed in 2020 at Snyder Park.
- Actively look for alternative, additional options for field space by conducting an inventory of undeveloped land throughout Berkeley Heights; approach landowners about the possibility of converting or using for sport fields or passive recreational space.
- Conduct an inventory of walking and biking paths throughout Berkeley Heights with an eye towards making them wider, safer, and more enjoyable for our residents to use. We will also work with the County on property they own to create, compliment and connect with Berkeley Heights properties.
Rina Franchino and I are proud to be running a positive, issues-driven campaign. We’re focusing on doing everything we can to build upon the progress seen in Berkeley Heights’ government in 2019. You can learn more about us and the rest of our ideas for Progress We Can Count On at www.bhteampurple.com or by emailing us at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively. You can also find us on Facebook at Julie & Rina 4 BH.