Middle Township residents gathered at the Martin Luther King Center on Jan. 22 for an opportunity to have a voice in creating the township's Open Space and Recreation wish list.

The Middle Township Hockey Association wants a second rink, the Football Association wants a dedicated practice field or artificial turf at its existing field and the wrestling team simply wants a space to call its own.

"We have no facility," said Middle Township wrestling team coach Matt Rolando. "We might be a small group, but we have a lot of dedicated kids. We need a place."

The Open Space and Recreation Plan public meeting was the first of its kind, and it attreacted 65 residents, according to the sign-in sheet. A second public meeting on the topic is set for March 21.

The township's Open Space and Recreation study team, led by Township Planner Liz Terenik and members of the township's Environmental Commission, Planning Board and Recreation Advisory Board, organized the meeting and are creating the Open Space and Recreation Plan.

The plan is being funded by a grant from the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions, or ANJEC.

Once complete, which is estimated to be sometime in April, the team will take its findings and come up with a plan that describes how best to enhance and promote Middle Township recreation facilities and open spaces.

"We all know that the township doesn't want to raise taxes to fund this stuff, so we're trying to come up with creative ways to fund it, because I think we really do deserve to have nice facilities," Terenik said. "The work that you are all doing to keep our kids busy and active is really important stuff and we, as a community, should support it."

After the plan is created, the next step would be to have it adopted as part of Middle Township's master plan.

"The goal of the master plan is to guide the long-term development of Middle Township in a way that balances development with preservation," Deputy Mayor Tim Donohue said. "We live in a great town, but we'll never reach our full potential if we don't have an involved and energized group of citizens."

Terenik said Cape May County's Open Space Program was modified Jan. 1 to expand and include the development of recreation facilities and historical preservation.

Previously, the program was only for open space and farmland.

"When we finish this plan, we think it will put us in a nice position to apply for that funding," she said.

The team has been meeting monthly since August. It has toured all the township's open spaces, created inventory maps on them and created a community survey to learn residents' priorities and interests.

A main part of the Jan. 22 public meeting was going over the survey findings.

Two hundred families completed the survey, which represented about 600 Middle Township residents.

The meeting was also an opportunity for residents to make a claim as to what should be added to the plan.

Fourteen individuals proposed ideas, seven representing a recreational activity in the township: hockey, football, baseball/softball, basketball, lacrosse, wrestling and swimming. Each listed individual needs for their sport with the common thread being a need for more space.

"We have four teams and one football field," football coach Erik Rickards said. "By the middle of the season, we're playing on a muddy field because all the grass is gone."

Rickards said the best plan would be for the different sports associations to come together and come up with a goal that would serve more than one of them.

"If we had artificial turf, lacrosse (lines) can overlay right over football field. You can also use it for soccer," he said. "We all have our wish list, but what can we do together to make something come to fruition that can help everybody?"

Ideas on how to enhance and promote the township's under-utilized open spaces, such as Ockie Wisting, formerly the Fort Apache Campground and the Avalon Manor Fishing Pier in the Avalon Manor section of the township, were also a main focus of the meeting.

To help residents become more aware of the township's 21 open spaces, know where they are and what they offer, the study team has created a user-friendly inventory map. The map also lists each area's attractions, such as hiking trails, fishing piers and picnic tables.

Donohue said the map will be a great asset to the community.

"I've spoken with many members of the community who didn't know many of these sites existed," he said.

Committeewoman Susan DeLanzo, who spoke about promoting the township's bayside communities to spawn economic development, said the Open Space and Recreation Plan is a big opportunity for Middle Township to move ahead.

"It's an opportunity for public input, for public and private partnerships, for economic growth through eco-tourism," DeLanzo said. "In my tenure, this is one of the most exciting things we are doing together."

Contact Elisa Lala:


If you go

What: Middle Township Open Space and Recreation Public Meeting 2

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, March 21

Where: Martin Luther King Center, 207 W. Main St., Whiteseboro

For more information on the Open Space and Recreation Plan, visit

Inventory map

To view the open space inventory map, go to http://bit.ly/XGpcH0

Wish lists

Middle Township Hockey Association: The association has a rink in the Clarence Davies Sports Complex. It would like a second rink built next to it, where the skatepark currently is. (The skatepark can easily be dismantled and relocated.) The association’s ultimate goal would be to put a snack bar between the two rinks.

Middle Township Football Association: It has one field in the Clarence Davies Sports Complex and would like a second dedicated practice field or to have existing field replaced by artificial turf.

Middle Township Baseball and Softball Association: The association has one field in the Clarence Davies Sports Complex. They would like two to three more as well as additional lighting and portable fences surrounding the field.

Middle Township wrestling team: The team uses the gymnasium in Middle Township Middle School. It wants a permanent space of its own, preferably a minimum 40-by-40-foot space.

Cape Atlantic League Swimming: Team members have to travel as far as Brigantine to practice. They want an indoor municipal swimming pool. According to township survey. 71.5 percent (98 out of 137 individuals who answered that question) agreed Middle Township needs a swimming pool.

Middle Township Boys Lacrosse: New in 2013. Teams will share the field with Middle Township football. The lacrosse program is seeking donations of used equipment, local business sponsors and volunteer coaches.

Middle Township Travel Basketball: The group has two full gymnasiums, one at MLK Center in Whitesboro and one at the Clarence Davies Sports Complex in Goshen, and wants another.