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Community Picnic May Get Moved in Watchung

Recreation Commission concerned about low attendance at annual Memorial Day weekend event.

Watchung’s annual Memorial Day community picnic may not be on Memorial Day.

The borough’s recreation commission is considering whether to change the picnic, traditionally held on the Saturday before Memorial Day, to either the previous week or the week after the holiday, Councilman Stephen Pote told fellow council members on Thursday.

The commission hopes that a change in dates may increase attendance at the picnic because “a lot of people are away” that weekend, Pote said.

Mayor Gerald Mobus said not only has attendance been dropping at the picnic in the last few years, but staffing has also been a problem.

“It’s very difficult to get the recreation people there,” the mayor said.

Councilwoman Debra Joren agreed, explaining that the picnic requires a lot of volunteer help. “It takes a lot of physical labor,” she said, adding that volunteers are responsible for cooking and serving food and cleaning up.

Councilman William Nehls said the recreation commission should be allowed to change the date of the picnic if it chooses.

Pote also told the council that the recreation commission is considering whether to move Watchung’s summer playground program from Mobus Field to the Brook Hill Swim and Tennis Club on Drift Road.

Pote also said the commission is thinking about raising the fee for the playground program to $200.

But council members said they needed more information before they would endorse the switch.

Issues of liability need to be answered, said Councilwoman Karen Cassidy, because Brook Hill has a pool.

Joren also said that questions about who would be responsible for supervision of the children have to be addressed. For example, she said, will the borough’s counselors or the club’s lifeguards be responsible for the children at the pool?

Nehls was opposed to locating the program at the club. “I don’t see why we’re subsidizing a private club,” he said, adding that if parents could choose independently to send their children to the club.

“Why are we getting in the middle of this?” he asked.

But one council member was more open to the idea.

“I think it’s a great concept,” Councilman Steven Black said. “But it has to be cost-effective.”

Because of time pressure in preparing for the summer program, the recreation commission will have more information about the change ready for the council’s next meeting on Feb. 14.

mrsp January 25, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Nehls was opposed to locating the program at the club. “I don’t see why we’re subsidizing a private club,” he said, adding that if parents could choose independently to send their children to the club. “Why are we getting in the middle of this?” he asked. <Aren't you "getting in the middle of this" because a key feature of real, and desirable, communities is a summer rec program? Did they forget that last year the summer program for Watchung was CANCELLED (at the last minute, no less?) As a reader, the idea of moving it to an already existing club sounds like brainstorming a solution, looking at existing resources, and helping a local business in a win-win situation. Just as changing the date of the picnic appears to be a sound and logical approach to a predictable, reoccurring problem.

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