Old Bridge Township Parks and Recreation provides for young and old

OLD BRIDGE – The Old Bridge Township Parks and Recreation Department is one of the more visible departments in the township, providing something for everyone young and old.

“We have had services for as young as 2 years old to our [members at] Silver Linings [at Old Bridge] at 100 years old,” Matthew Mercurio, director of Parks and Recreation, said during the May 13 council meeting.

With more than 300 acres of developed park land and open space, the department offers something for everyone, according to Mercurio’s overview of the department.

The Parks and Recreation Department oversees a multitude of programs and services, which include the John Piccolo Arena, recreation programming, parks, before and after care, Silver Linings at Old Bridge, Old Bridge Food Bank, Camp ROBIN and the municipal alliance.

Lisa Valsera, deputy director, oversees the John Piccolo Arena, which offers more than 100 basic skill ice skating lessons, instructional hockey clinics through a partnership with the New York Rangers, Junior Knights youth hockey league, veterans skating sessions through a partnership with Operation Beach Head, school day trips through a partnership with the Board of Education, and Friday night open skates.

Mercurio said they offer fall and winter lessons as well as showcases. He said since the department partnered with the New York Rangers, enrollment has doubled.

Recent improvements include updates to the ceiling, the building of a girls locker room and an updated fireplace. Upcoming projects include improvements to the arena walls and flooring.

Brianne McManus supervises the yearlong development and implementation of all youth and adult recreation programming.

The department officers more than 60 classes per session, including cooking, arts and crafts, mommy and me classes, dance classes (including a yearly recital), and Zumba classes.

On May 31, the township held its first intergenerational art show – Art for the Ages – with Silver Linings members. Also, the department is implementing a summer wrestling program and fall ceramic classes.

The department holds half-day summer camp with an enrollment of 600-700 children per summer, and a number of special events from the Memorial Day Parade and Salt Water Day to an annual summer camp color run to a holiday tree and menorah lighting ceremony.

Foreman John Hughes oversees a nine-member full-time parks and recreation crew as well as a seasonal labor force. The crew is responsible for 235 acres of developed park land – Geick Park, which is home of the Camp ROBIN facility, Mannino Park, and Veterans Park – and the maintenance of 1,121 acres of open space.

This year, an equipment trailer will be purchased for the parks. Next year, Geick Park will have a new baseball turf installed, and the irrigation system at Higgins Soccer Complex will be replaced.

Gregg Grieve manages the state licensed before and after school program at 14 sites, including at the 12 elementary schools and two middle schools in the township, with approximately 125 staff members.

This year marked the largest enrollment of children with more than 720 enrolled. Officials plan to provide tablets for special needs students in the program for the 2019-20 school year and continue to expand intergenerational programming and partnerships with Silver Linings members, including working on a vegetable garden together.

Grieve also oversees full-day camp, which is sold out again for summer 2019. The programs are offered at three sites: McDivitt Elementary School, Old Bridge High School and the Grade Nine Center.

Anna Feltz manages Silver Linings at Old Bridge, which has more than 2,000 registered members and on average sees more than 115 members attend the various programs and services on a daily basis.

Silver Linings is an activity center for adults 60 and over. The center is a nationally accredited senior center, the only accredited center in Middlesex County. The center provides extensive transportation services and introduced MySeniorCenter in 2019, which is a web-based software that enables officials to track daily attendance and transportation use.

Feltz also oversees the Old Bridge Food Bank, which assists more than 500 residents monthly.

Pete Pero is the coordinator for Camp ROBIN, which has grown into a comprehensive system, offering both therapeutic and diverse recreational activities for children with special needs. The program participates in Special Olympics.

Karen Tortorici is the coordinator for the Municipal Alliance – Prevention of Substance Abuse, which implements programs and events throughout the school district and community.

On May 31, the Municipal Alliance held an intergenerational end of the year celebration with Silver Linings, and Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs will be held on June 8.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.