Recreation dept. plans host of 2010 activities


HOWELL—While 2009 was a troublesome year for financing fun and games, Parks and Recreation Department administrators are hoping 2010 will bring new programs and revitalized events to the community.

According to Davide Fuoco, Howell’s director of parks and recreation, the department’s ideal goals for 2010 include new additions to athletic and cultural programs, an overhaul of Howell’s most frequented events, and a continuation of successful and established activities.

But the realization of such ambitions is dependent on the forthcoming budget and other financial factors, Fuoco said.

“We really want to step it up this year, but it all depends on the 2010 budget and state funding. We’ll have to maximize what we have,” he said. “We’re coming off a tough year. I wish there was more we could have done last year. It was difficult to focus on new programs. We were focused on improving our existing programs and keeping them afloat, especially with our staff coming in and out with furloughs all year.”

Among the fresh programs of 2009 were KidzArt, a K-8 art enrichment program; Zumba, a Latin-style dance music workout class; Cooking with Chef Mike, a six-week K-8 cooking class; and a one-week multisport summer camp.

Parks and Recreation also organized a barn dance that brought together square dancers from the surrounding area and invited residents to do-si-do with the best.

“The new programs were very successful and we plan to bring back all of them,” Fuoco said. “Zumba was especially popular. It has completely blown up — we expanded to two weekly sessions and there are still waiting lists.”

However, some activities were lost in the economic shuffle. Plans to start up a Movies in the Park series were abandoned, and the annual Fourth of July celebration was canceled.

“It [the Howell Fourth of July celebration] was the only event that was completely lost,” Fuoco said. “It was just not financially feasible, and I’m not sure about a 2010 fireworks display and celebration. I don’t foresee that happening.”

Despite the absence of township-sponsored Independence Day hot dogs and sparklers, Fuoco is hoping to rejuvenate Howell events that will not be budging from the calendar.

He noted that the department will be focusing on a complete revamping of Howell Day, which is typically held in September. While upgrades are still in the brainstorming phase, Fuoco said the event’s layout will most likely change and several activities will be added.

Also scheduled for a makeover is the township’s Halloween Spooktacular. A haunted mansion was added to the event in 2009, and the typical carriage ride will be switched out for a haunted hayride in 2010.

“We are always assessing programs and seeing what ideas we can bring to the table. Some updates are more possible than others,” Fuoco said.

One event that is possible this year, according to Fuoco, is a township Movies in the Park series. While dates are yet to be scheduled, the film series will be shown over the summer on an either biweekly or monthly basis, depending on funding.

Aside from municipal-wide affairs, Fuoco aspires to add more athletic and cultural programs, including tennis, field hockey, and a theater class that would last for 10 to 12 weeks and culminate in the performance of a play. A wider selection of exercise and dance classes is also being explored.

But his personal project for 2010 is to organize a 5K race. He said the department is looking into locations, including the Manasquan Reservoir trail in Howell, and is consulting with the police department in order to find a safe route for runners.

“We are going to start small and see where it goes. The sky’s the limit,” he said.

In the meantime, several established programs will be starting up again going into the new year.

Among Howell’s sports programs, boys indoor lacrosse, available to children in grades two through eight, will be held in the Howell High School gymnasium beginning Jan. 23, and karate and self-defense for children in kindergarten through fifth grade will begin Feb. 1 in the Aldrich School gymnasium.

Zumba and ballroom dancing for couples will both begin Jan. 4 in the recreation building. Square Dance (Jan. 20), Tai Chi (Jan. 12) and Flow Yoga (Jan. 18) will all be held in different sessions at the Echo Lake Pavilion.

Among other recreation activities, Cooking Healthy with Chef Mike began Jan. 4 at Aldrich School; KidzArt will begin Jan. 12 at Land O’ Pines School and Jan. 14 at Greenville School; and Music Together, an interactive music class that explores rhythms and tones for children 6 months to 5 years old, will start Jan. 21 at Echo Lake Pavilion.

The township’s Ski and Snowboarding Club departed for its first trip on Jan. 3 to Shawnee Mountain, and the group will travel to other Pennsylvania locations such as Big Boulder, Blue Mountain and Camelback over the next two months.

The Parks and Recreation Department will be reviving last year’s barn dance as well. The free event is scheduled for Jan. 13 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Echo Lake Pavilion.

With Howell’s strong foundation of recreation programs and tentative plans for expansion, Fuoco is hoping 2010 will be much brighter than last year. But that does not mean he isn’t seeking out new ideas throughout the year.

“Some of the best ideas are from the people I pass by and talk to,” he said. “Residents make impressive suggestions. We just need to come together and make them happen now.”