GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Mayor Anthony J. Coppola, Jr. knows he cannot restore the loss of home values in the township after the housing market collapse of the last decade.
But Coppola and the Township Council are trying to improve the quality of life for residents by upgrading the recreational areas that everyone can use.
“We can control taxes. We can control parks and recreation. This is part of our big plan to make it better here,” said Coppola during a recent Thursday afternoon spent touring some of the township’s parks.
The township started improving its recreational fields last year. This will be at least a three-year effort that will affect multiple fields and parks.
The most recent renovation has been to the township’s former skate park, which has not been used for the past five years and sits at the back at the municipal government complex.
The skate park has been turned into basketball courts with four hoops. It should be ready to use by the first full week of June. The conversion cost less than $15,000, said Chris Johansen, township manager.
Some fence repairs still need to be made. The concrete needs to be sealed. Pads have to be acquired for the basketball posts, so that no one runs into a steel post, Johansen said. The public bathrooms will be reopened before the basketball courts are ready to use.
“We hope to make this area somewhere kids and families can come and enjoy,” Johansen said. “At this point, it’s too late to run a summer league out of here, but that’s definitely something we are looking to do in the future. ... We think this complements the area well.”
On the southern side of Patriot Lake Park at the municipal complex, the township is building a dog park. The idea came up last year within the recreation committee. Officials discussed what the ground cover should be.
“Everyone always talked about Ocean City having the best dog park, and theirs is made of sand, so we decided to make ours of sand,” Johansen said.
The dog park’s fence should be installed this week with areas for large and small dogs. A grand opening for the $40,000 dog park will take place in two weeks, Johansen said.
The $30,000 worth of work at Pine Needle Park in the western part of the township, known as South Egg Harbor, took place last year.
A new piece of playground equipment was installed. The township redid the softball and baseball infield. The asphalt was repaved for the basketball court and the bathrooms were fixed.
The township plans to gain approvals and award contracts this year to build a concession stand and add bathrooms to the Tartaglio Sports Complex on Duerer Street, where the Galloway Renegades Footall Club plays its home games and where most of the township’s soccer fields are located.
During the past two years, the township has improved the baseball fields with a new infield, pitcher’s mound and outfield at Gabriel Memorial Field, which is used by the Galloway Township Athletic Association. The irrigation was redone because it was 40 years old. The township wants to install a bathroom to replace the Porta-Potties.
Lacrosse is also played at Gabriel Field where soccer fields used to be. Lacrosse used to be played at the middle school, Johansen said.
During the budget crisis years, the township focused on replacing police cars and keeping firefighters in good gear, Coppola said.
“We are just trying to play catch-up. ... Having good fiscal management has given us the opportunity to do so many new projects in this town that we always thought about, but we have never been able to execute because we didn’t have our finances in order,” Coppola said.