Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 47
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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Recreation Department Creates Foundation to Raise Funds for Capital Improvements

Ellen Gilbert

The Recreation Department has approved the creation of a “Princeton Parks and Recreation Foundation,” charged with improving “the quality of life for the diverse population of Princeton by promoting and implementing recreation, parks, conservation, and leisure services in a thorough and financially efficient manner.” The group was established out of the department’s recognition that “it cannot rely exclusively on public money” to reach the goals outlined in its 2008 Master Plan.

At a reception held in a Township residence last weekend, Executive Director Jack Roberts described the Master Plan’s “wish list” for capital improvements during “the next ten to fifteen years.” While noting that financing for refurbishing the 42-year old Community Park Pool complex is the foundation’s current priority, he pointed out that “priorities can change as things happen.”

Corner House Executive Director Gary J. De Blasio was on hand as Mr. Roberts noted the Recreation Department’s interest in collaborating with the Borough-sponsored non-profit to create a community teen center. He observed that current interest in the disposition of the Valley Road Building may make that another priority in the coming months. “I can’t think of a better opportunity than the Valley Road building,” he commented.

In the meantime, the aging pool is the new board’s primary focus. Ironically, Mr. Roberts noted, the department’s excellent maintenance of the pool and its environs may have obscured the very real need for an upgrade. A break in worn pipes beneath the pool could mean the disruption of a pool season, he noted.

Addressing the audience at the reception, which included Township Committee members Sue Nemeth and Lance Liverman, Borough Council member Andrew Koontz, and Princeton University representative Kristen Appelgate, Mr. Roberts emphasized the role of feedback obtained at public meetings about the pool over the last two years. Pointing to plans, he joked that “This is so much the will of the people that the Recreation Department director may be disappointed about the absence of bells and whistles to take us into the next 50 years.”

Plans for the area, which he described as “a park that happens to have a pool in it,” include expanding the wading pool and giving it state-of-the-art “beach entry” access that a six-month old child can navigate; increased shade, particularly over the pools; and a “transitional” area where children of lap swimmers can enjoy being in the water near their parents. “Green” components, like more efficient filtering systems and the use of solar panels, promise to reduce operating costs.

Although the public has “pushed back” on the idea of installing slides in the diving well, Mr. Roberts hasn’t given up on the idea of creating an “activity pool” where teenagers can play volleyball and other sports.

Noting that the pool proposal has received “a lot of support from Township Committee,” but “less from Borough Council,” Mr. Roberts said that “This pool is as much a part of the fabric of this community as the library is. We need the governing bodies to recognize this.” He reported that while there is likely to be an increase in pool fees to help defray bond indebtedness, the cost per family membership will remain considerably less than the $363 per family average being collected at pools elsewhere.

Board member Peter O’Neill described the importance of creating an “outreach group” to inform the larger community and engage it in the new foundation’s work. “Nothing will happen without a grass roots effort,” he observed.

Those interested in learning more about the foundation can contact Mr. O’Neill at P.O. Box 614, Princeton, N.J. 08542.

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