New Mercer at Play Grants Announced by County Executive
Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes on July 8 announced that his administration will open up a new round of matching grants for the Mercer at Play program, which encourages municipalities to provide active recreation areas for kids.
Mr. Hughes made the announcement at Central Park in Lawrence, where the township will seek to build a universally accessible playground through Mercer at Play. He was joined by state, county, and municipal officials who expressed support for the program that the county executive introduced in 2006 to help local towns expand their active recreation facilities.
“Ten years later I’m thrilled with the range of innovative projects that have been completed or are near completion, totaling $6.5 million,” Mr. Hughes said. “From skate parks and bocce, to good old basketball and tennis, through Mercer at Play every one of our towns has been able to build or renovate active recreation projects.
“As a parent, I know how challenging it is to keep kids active and engaged when they have so many devices to distract them. I believe it is up to us as leaders to provide outlets for children to go out and play.”
Through Mercer at Play, municipalities can seek funding for outdoor recreational facilities such as playing fields, playgrounds, skate parks or walking trails, and indoor uses such as swimming pools, gymnasiums or weight rooms. Municipalities must carefully detail projected costs in their proposal, and provide a rough construction schedule for the proposed facility. The county reviews proposals on a case-by-case basis; when it approves a proposal, it provides a matching grant to help finance construction costs. Projects done cooperatively by two or more municipalities are eligible for a 100 percent matching grant from the county, while individual municipal projects can receive a 50 percent matching grant.
Lawrence Township was one of the first towns to participate in the first round of funding when it partnered with Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township and Pennington to acquire the former Twin Pines Airport and develop the site into playing fields. Mayor David Maffei announced that the township will seek a new Mercer at Play grant to help fund the installation of a playground featuring a special rubberized surface that would accommodate both walkers and wheelchairs.
“What I am truly excited about is that all children will be able to visit this playground, and there will be equipment that meets all needs,” Mayor Maffei said. “All family members, regardless of age or infirmity, will be able to join in family activities at this playground.”
Mr. Hughes noted just a few years after Mercer County launched Mercer at Play, First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010 introduced her Let’s Move! public health campaign to encourage a healthy lifestyle in children. “I believe our program is in step with her national plan to create substantive changes for our kids,” he said.