Rec. proposals could soon pay off for O.B. residents

Residents of Old Bridge may have plenty to complain about — continuous housing development and congested highways such as Route 516, for example. But when it comes to future construction, there is a bright side: The town is about to make major strides in the area of recreation.

Already home to the rare municipal ice arena, Old Bridge will soon be the owner of an 18-hole golf course and a partner in the operation of a YMCA. Recent reports that the two long-discussed facilities are moving forward come on the heels of the development of John A. Phillips Park, where residents will soon be able to use soccer and baseball fields and enjoy other recreational amenities. The park, which has been a few years in the making, will open next year within a vast open-space parcel west of Route 18.

The Township Council recently got a look at plans by Far Hills Capital Partners for a golf course that will be built on 170 acres of former farmland purchased by the township off Lambertson Road. The firm will build and operate the golf course; the township will retain ownership.

Beyond the revenue-producing prospects of the golf course are a couple of nice qualities worth mentioning: The course, as designed, will require minimal intrusion to the existing landscape. It will include a driving range, a clubhouse designed with trellises and canopies, and an open-air dining pavilion. And the best part, at least for golfers — its fee structure will offer Old Bridge residents lower rates than players from outside the township.

But the biggest news of late has been the revival of the YMCA plans. Just a few months after the Community YMCA pulled the plug on its own plan to bring a facility to Old Bridge’s Mannino Park, the Western Monmouth YMCA has stepped in with hopes of having the rec center up and running in a couple years’ time. Officials stressed that this facility will be built through fundraising and grants, requiring no funds from the municipal budget.

Some may argue that all of the new and proposed recreational developments are unnecessary and that the town would be better off keeping these properties as open space, but there is always a need for more recreational facilities in growing communities, and Old Bridge is no different. The projects will help to enhance the attractiveness of a town where quality of life is an oft-debated issue.