Monmouth County Park System
Just after dawn, 365 days a year, Park Rangers open the gates of the Monmouth County’s parks to welcome walkers, joggers, nature lovers, dog owners and countless other residents who find refuge and adventure in the beauty of preserved parklands. By this early morning hour, Longstreet Farm staffers have already tended to the animals, golf maintenance crews have already manicured greens and trades crews are already on their way to paint, build or repair park buildings and equipment at several of the 38 county parks.
“It’s all in a days work,” park director Jim Truncer says. “The Park System staff members know how important their jobs are to making the county parks great. From scouting an upcoming organized hike to conducting playground inspections, it’s all part of the job.”
In 2010 the Park System is celebrating 50 years of providing the highest quality parks and programs to Monmouth County residents. Heralding the theme “Gold & Growing,” the Park System reflects on its humble beginnings at Shark River Park to the comprehensive recreation provider it is today.
The system now cares for 14,646 acres on its way to a goal of 19,099 acres. Employees in the Acquisition & Design Department have led the effort to coordinate the acquisition of county open space while others have been planning and designing upgrades to existing park facilities and keeping an eye on future park growth to meet the ever evolving needs and interests of park visitors. The department’s graphics division has been busy making sure that park maps, brochures, signs and images are attractive, accurate, and user friendly.
The Visitors Services Department provides recreation programs to all levels of ability and interest. Nature Interpretation and Outdoor Adventures divisions, the original program areas in the system, provide opportunities for residents to connect with the environment. Through school and scout group programs, family themed events and trips, and skill development classes, residents build social connections as well as learn the importance of protecting our natural resources. Over the years, the Park System has grown to meet the needs of county residents with the addition of program divisions focused on cultural, craft, sports and fitness, urban, equestrian and therapeutic recreation.
Behind the scenes, other park staff are responsible for phone and walk-in program registrations and questions, bill payment, payroll, lost and found, operational support, training and volunteer services.
How comprehensive is the County Park System?
In 2009, the park rangers, recreation leaders, landscape architects and other support staff worked to:
- welcome more than 5 million people to the county parks
- Manasquan Reservoir is the No. 1 visited park
- maintain the 14,646 acres of permanently preserved county park land
- The largest park is Turkey Swamp Park at 2,143 acres
- The smallest park is Historic Longstreet Farm at 9 acres
- enrolled nearly 100,000 people in recreation programs
- offered more than 4,200 recreation programs
- started 220,975 golfers on the eight county courses
- Shark River was No. 1 with 35,792 golf rounds
Many of the park staffers get to work outside on beautiful summer days, but they are also at the various parks’ ice ponds in sub-freezing temperatures making sure park patrons enjoy safe skating. They also plow the parking lots so that early morning revelers can get to the renowned Holmdel Park sledding hill.
But, if you ask a park employee about the hottest week of the year, you’ll more than likely hear the response “Fair Week!” That’s the time at the end of July when many of the Park System staff shift their attention to running the annual Monmouth County Fair at East Freehold Showgrounds. “Fair Week” historically has the highest temperatures combined with a whopper of a summer rainstorm. In fact, in the last two decades, the only Fair to go without high temperatures and rain was in 1993. Rick Royle, the 2010 fair chairman is optimistic and hopeful that this year’s fair will enjoy favorable weather.
Be sure keep your eyes on the thermometer and skies from July 21-25 to see if we match 1993’s perfect weather conditions!
The Park System is funded through the county’s annual operating and capital budgets, a self-funding recreation program budget and the county open space tax. Other funding is also used to maximize land acquisition dollars – Monmouth County has been awarded state Green Acres funding dollars to acquire opens space.
Other park services
Open Space Grant program
Park staff administers the Municipal Open Space Grant Program, created by the Freeholders, that provides matching grants of up to $250,000 for municipal open space acquisition and development projects. Since 2003, the grants have been awarded to 90 local park and recreation projects in 43 municipalities.
For more than 20 years, the Park System has provided recreation programs to residents of low income communities through its Recreation Assistance Program and Mobile Recreation units. The program now includes the Coastal Activity Center in Asbury Park, a park intern program, O2 program for middle school students and the Extreme Team adventure-based summer camps. The division also administers a summer camp scholarship program in cooperation with the Friends of the Parks.
Published five times a year, “The Directory” lists all of the park program offerings in printed format and online. To receive the Directory without registering for online registration, e-mail the Park System or call 732-842-4000 ext. 4313. A copy of the Directory can also be picked up at any county park and most libraries.
Upcoming 2010 Events
July 21–25 – The 36th annual Monmouth County Fair at East Freehold Showgrounds is the biggest annual event the Park System puts on each year. This is a state-designated agricultural fair that showcases the county farming traditions, the local 4-H association and the county government services. On this year’s schedule is a 50th birthday celebration with cupcake decorating, MotorSports night, live music, circus fun, home & garden competitions, discounted rides and some very tasty food selections!
July through October – Golf championship season is under way with four of the courses ready for individual championship events in July. Late summer and fall offerings include the women’s, youth and men’s team championships.
Aug. 7 – The Sports & Fitness division puts on the exciting Woods Hollow Classic Mountain Bike Race where beginners test a 7.5-mile course and more experienced riders can take on 11.25 miles. Both courses go through the open fields and woodlands of Tatum Park.
Sept. 26 – The staff of Historic Longstreet Farm hosts the Harvest Home Festival, an old-fashioned fair reminiscent of the 1890s where visitors can enjoy wagon rides, games and live entertainment. There are also ongoing crafts demonstrations and a home & garden competition.
October 3 – Historic Walnford Day gives visitors a chance to see even more local and park history while enjoying fall in scenic western Monmouth County.
Monthly photo challenge – The July theme is the County Fair. Share your best image as part of the 50th anniversary celebration. Monthly photo entries are due at the end of the month.
For more information about the county parks, log onto www.monmouthcountyparks.com.