By Cheryl Conway
Leaders have decided on a new path for monies that were earmarked to extend the Morris Canal Greenway Braille Trail.
Instead of completing phase two of the project which would have involved reconstruction of a deteriorated bridge on property owned by the Department of Environmental Protection, township officials and the corporate sponsor of the trail agreed to reallocate the funds raised for the project.
Lacrosse players will be happy to know that $32,000 will now be used to improve facilities at the Drakesbrook Park in Budd Lake.
“People are very excited about it,” says Mt. Olive Twp. Business Administrator Laura Harris. “It’s been received in a very positive way. The Braille Trail was a great idea, it was very unique,” says Harris, but leaders did not realize the financial obligation and time still required to complete the trail.
When looking at “how many people it will reach and how many lives it will affect,” officials realized the monies could be reallocated.
Reallocating $32,000 which had been donated by the corporate sponsor of the trail, the Givaudan Fragrances Corporation in Budd Lake, was Mayor Robert Greenbaum’s idea, says Harris.
Opening of the Braille Trail was back in April 2014 with an entrance at Plane Street Bridge in Stanhope. The concept for the trail dates back several years ago with leaders wanting to improve the trail system. After contacting several companies for support, Givaudan agreed to the partnership to accommodate the visually impaired.
Givaudan has provided volunteer hours to help prepare the trail as well as financial support to provide materials and building construction.
Phase one of the Braille Trail was completed last summer and included a mile long stretch north of the Plane Street Bridge, from Love Lane in Mt. Olive along the historical Morris Canal. Signage for phase one is still in progress, says Harris.
While the trail provides a great walkway for all individuals to enjoy, its aim is to incorporate a guided system for accessibility to blind individuals and the visually impaired.
The hope was to continue the trail for three miles, from the International Trade Zone, all the way to Waterloo in order to complete phase two which would have extended the trail to connect to International Drive.
Officials were counting on possible state or federal grant monies to improve the Plane Street Bridge, according to previous articles.
After recently realizing the one million dollar expense to cover the engineering and permit fees to replace the bridge, as well as the two year time table to complete, officials agreed to reallocate the donation from Givaudan, explains Harris.
Givaudan Vice President of Operations John Trombley and Greenbaum “agreed that rehabilitating improvements of Drakesbrook would be more viable,” says Harris. “John was interested and supportive of it,” the mayor’s suggestion, says Harris.
“No one was interested in giving a million dollars in the project and it didn’t impact enough people,” says Harris.
Both Greenbaum and Trombley were unavailable for comment before press time.
At the Mt. Olive Twp. Council meeting on Aug. 23, the council agreed to reallocate the $32,000 toward improvements of the lacrosse field at Drakesbrook.
“It was recommended by the administration and council agreed,” says Council President Joe Nicastro.
With facility improvements already begun, the list includes new equipment, new entrance sign, electric score board, new goals and nets, new player benches, two-sided practice wall, equipment shed and field paint lines, explains Harris.
Since the entire improvement plan will cost an extra $11,000, Harris says the list of improvements will be prioritized with the score board, entrance sign, field paint lines and goals and lines at the top of the list. Equipment shed and new benches “will probably wait until next year.”
Support for the lacrosse facilities and program also comes from ADD Systems of Mt. Olive and the Mt. Olive Junior Lacrosse Club.
Harris says the “township has done a lot to improve the township parks here. It’s a win win for everyone.”
At Flanders Park there are some plans for lighting and a concession stand is underway, all being done in partnership with the Mt. Olive Baseball Association.
The new Pirates Cove at Turkey Brook Park was a hit this summer but plans to utilize the splash pad as an ice skating rink have been changed. It was determined that the splash pad area was “too small,” says Harris.
While the idea did garner an “overwhelming enthusiastic response,” officials have decided that the tennis courts will be converted into an ice arena with half of the courts to be used for ice hockey.
The plan is to put down a membrane on the court, then fill it, all which can be done “in house, at minimal cost and minimal labor,” says Harris.