Veterans Park holds memories of past, present and future

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — After years of closure and remediation due to medical waste contamination, township officials and residents rejoiced in the reopening and rededication of North Brunswick Veterans Park.

“Tonight we come together with much community pride as we rededicate Veterans Park,” Lou Ann Benson, director of the North Brunswick Department of Parks, Recreation & Community Services (DPRCS), said on Sept. 7. “As we move forward together, we leave a beautiful legacy for all generations to come.”

Industrial waste was dumped at North Brunswick Township High School (NBTHS) and the park site decades ago; a refuse trucking business operated a property adjacent to the area on Roosevelt Avenue through the 1960s.

Phase I of the nearly $9 million project included a drop-off area that circles the veterans monument; the rebuilding of the tennis courts and construction of two new basketball courts; and the inclusion of one softball field.

Phase II included a new restroom and concession building, improvements to the playground equipment and landscaping.

“This is going to be a place of pride,” Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack said. “Parks define the shape and feel of the community. … This is a place to honor the men and women who, through their courage and commitment, preserve and protect the down-home values that make North Brunswick the greatest [town] on earth.”

T&M Associates, Applied Landscape Technologies, G.K. Fotinos LLC, DPRCS, North Brunswick Department of Parks and retired Business Administrator Robert Lombard were thanked for their efforts with the ongoing project.

“To the young and old, a park is a place of freedom: freedom to relax, freedom to play, freedom to assemble with friends, freedom to speak publicly and to speak privately, and to meditate,” Womack said.

“I look forward to the use of this park by everyone who calls themself a resident.”

Councilman Carlo Socio, the liaison to the North Brunswick Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, said that although the park has been closed since 2003, memories extend back to his own childhood, especially the last dedication in 1986 and spending Saturdays playing soccer on the fields. He said his Happy Times team went undefeated for seven seasons.

He mentioned high school students using the park for gym class or the automotive classes doing oil changes and repairs on the property.

He noted that fall recreational soccer, men’s softball, girls’ junior varsity and varsity soccer, freshman baseball and tennis matches played on the fields, which were also home to Heritage Day at one time.

Now, with improved pick-up and drop-off [areas], bigger driveways, a parallel parking area, new playground, improved basketball courts and a brand new snack shack, “years of planning came to fruition.”

“Our global thinking got us back,” Socio said.

Acknowledging members of the township school district, Socio noted that the school year can now progress into the summer, with the Peer Buddy and extended summer programs being housed at neighboring Judd Elementary School, while summer enrichment, the swim team and the township’s day camp can prosper at the adjacent NBTHS.

“I want to welcome all of you to your Veterans Park,” he said.

The celebration included the Pledge of Allegiance by the Boy Scouts; the singing of “God Bless America” by Tangie Cobb; the ribbon cutting assisted by the North Brunswick Girls Travel Soccer teams, the NBTHS soccer teams and the NBTHS boys and girls tennis teams; and the dedication of the McDonough bench at the softball fields prior to the playing of the DPRCS Men’s Softball All-Star Game.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.