Providing quality services to our children is an essential function in our borough. A successful recreation program and vibrant public spaces ensure that families want to invest in South River and raise a family here. And the success of those programs increases demand for wanting to move into the borough, driving property values higher for all.
As a result, working to build new efforts within our existing Recreation Department and strengthening existing ones should be a shared value of residents. Put simply, providing a high quality of life to all of our residents makes South River a more attractive place to live. Much of this year has been spent trying to better understand the way our Recreation Department operates on a daily basis and to find ways to supplement our existing infrastructure. We wanted to share with you some updates of our efforts this year and where we’re headed next year. In addition, we welcome you to join the conversation at the Recreation Advisory Board meeting tonight, October 3, at 55 Reid Street beginning at 7PM.
Improving the dialogue
We’ve launched several initiatives this year to provide better notice of programs being run in the Borough. The Monthly Buzz provides details of upcoming events and we have a variety of ideas in the coming months to further improve information disbursement to our residents.
Complimenting the Monthly Buzz, we’ve been building a social media presence that, while in its infancy, has enabled the Borough to reach our audience in new and different ways.
In order to improve our existing programs, all of our residents must first know about them! This is why these efforts have been so important as we begin to rethink how recreation can be a more central part of all of our residents lives.
We’re adding a new initiative today, an online survey to provide us with a better understanding of what our residents want. We encourage you to take the survey to provide your feedback as we aim to address challenges we’ve experienced over the past several years. We see this as an important step to providing improved services and hope to make this a much more regular thing going forward.
Volunteers can be found in many different roles throughout the South River Recreation System. Every year, the steadfast support of our volunteers contributes to the success of recreation programs, special events, and facilities.
Volunteers are the heart and spirit of the South River Recreation System. They contribute their time and talents to Coach our youth, keep the parks beautiful, and provide enriching and healthy recreational activities for the public to enjoy. These efforts are critical to the operation of our town.
The Borough is committed to rethinking how it fosters and welcomes our volunteers and will be exploring new efforts in 2018 to retain, support, and thank our volunteers. If you have ever thought about getting involved or were involved in the past, we believe it might be worthwhile to giving it another thought. Share your time and talents and become a member of our Volunteer Staff! Reach out to our Recreation Department if you might be interested.
Capital investment into our parks and public spaces have not been a top priority in previous years and the Borough is beginning to change that. This year, $50,000 was added to the budget to address infrastructural issues at our parks to begin rejuvenating them. Our Department of Public Works works incredibly hard throughout the year to keep our parks in working order and it is the job of the management within the borough to ensure that the appropriate capital is available for the department to make critical improvements to keep our children safe. Things such as replacing fibar, repairing playgrounds, replacing old fencing and benches, reframing playground areas, and keeping fields properly maintained cannot be done if there’s no money in the budget to do them.
You might have noticed some of these improvements this year, but after years of underinvestment into these spaces, it’s going to take more than one year to get everything back to the way they should be.
Some of these issues require a larger strategy, as our initial investments have not solved the problem. We’re committed to solving drainage issues and field quality at our many playing fields around the borough. We’ve begun conversations between the Recreation Advisory Committee, the Finance Committee, the Borough Engineer, and the Department of Public Works to address these larger issues in the year ahead and realize that despite a Department of Public Works full of skilled workers, not everything can be solved inhouse. The conversations of the Recreation Advisory Committee over the next several months will be focused on topics like these, to develop a plan of action that can be executed as soon as Spring breaks.
This year, the Borough ran a pilot to provide an extended day recreation program in the borough, working in partnership with the Raritan Valley YMCA. Pilots are our chance to experiment and learn from the experience. We’ve learned several notable things this year and are committed to improving upon the program going forward to provide a real solution to parents looking for a full-day recreation program for their children in the summer. To begin, we want to provide an improved transportation option and a program that starts even earlier in the morning, to accommodate parents that must leave early in the morning. We’re currently having these discussions and welcome your feedback and participation.
Online Registration Coming Soon
The Borough laid the foundation this year for major technology improvements that are being deployed in a number of ways. One of the things we’ve been committed to all year long is the development of a solution for making registration for recreation and other programs much easier. Later this year and throughout 2018, we’ll start the push to move our forms and registrations online. This process requires coordination of a many entities and so we’ll be working hard to bring as many of these processes online as soon as we possibly can. Our first focus is to move recreation registration and payment online to make signups easier and more efficient for families. Look for FILE•it to launch in Q4 of 2017.
Community Center: Beginning the Dialogue
The Youth Leadership Program we launched this year demonstrated that our youth want to get involved and give back to South River. We’ve begun to work with young leaders to identify things important to them. One of our interns, Miguel Ribau, has begun the conversation about the need for a Community Center in the Borough. There are a tremendous number of logistical challenges that exist in order to make this effort a reality, but we’ve begun the dialogue and are currently thinking of creative ways to leverage our existing services in order to address this very real concern for our youth. We’d love to hear your feedback about this idea and welcome new faces to lead our Borough with addressing real resident needs.
If you haven’t yet taken our online survey, we encourage you to participate. It’s the only way we learn how to improve.
Not Forgetting About Adults and Seniors
Recreation isn’t something just for children. Our borough provides a lot of other activities to provide enjoyment for our residents young and old. We brought back the Independence Day Fireworks this year. We’re looking to launch a Summer Arts Series next summer. We have additional ideas to provide memorable events for all residents. We also need to look at how we can better provide services for our aging population. This year was pivotal to get many of these conversations off the ground. Next year we hope to expand upon all of these efforts. But without volunteer support and feedback from our residents, we’re limited in what we can accomplish. You can make South River the town you want it to be and especially if you’re a new face with a new idea, we want to hear from you!