HOWELL – Township officials held a special meeting earlier this month to hear the public’s thoughts on the 2018 Monmouth County Municipal Open Space Grant Program project for Howell Township. The application proposes to revamp Soldier Memorial Park by constructing a multi-use building on the property.
The new, multi-use facility would include permanent restrooms, a storage area, a concession stand with a kitchen, utility services (i.e. sewer, water, electric), an overhang to provide shade, and additional seating to supplement the benches already in place.
The Monmouth County Municipal Open Space Grant Program aims to “develop or redevelop land to expand recreational opportunities,” according to Kelsey Howard, grants and funding coordinator for Maser Consulting. Howard presented the project application at the meeting on behalf on the Open Space Grant program.
Howard explained that the total construction cost will be $750,000, $250,000 of which would be covered by the grant.
Soldier Memorial Park, located at 579 Lakewood-Farmingdale Road, right now consists of five baseball diamonds, nine soccer fields, three “tot lots,” four picnic areas, portable restrooms and storage space. As the largest park in the township, it is used heavily by local groups, organizations, and residents.
Howard noted that the project addresses the needs of the township by providing additional recreation opportunities but also by adding permanent restrooms to the area.
The Soldier Memorial Park project was also included in the original park concept and the township’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan Element.
Mayor Theresa Berger inquired during the meeting where the rest of the funds for the project would come from. With the grant, the township would still be required to pay a minimum of $500,000.
According to Director of Community Development Jim Herrman, the township does have approximately $3 million in an Open Space Trust Fund for projects such as this one.
Both Councilwoman Evelyn O’Donnell and deputy Mayor Robert Nicastro called the project “ambitious.”
“Like everything else you have to catch up and update amenities,” stated Nicastro. “This is a perfect project for this area, and quite frankly, it’s needed.”
The application deadline for the grant program is 4 p.m. on Sept. 20, 2018.