Company steps in to save Bob Bende park building

The Bob Bende Park Recreational Building is falling into disrepair, and with Medford Township unable to step in due to budgetary constraints, one Medford company is donating its services.

Summerville Custom Homes and Construction has entered into a “memorandum of understanding” with the township to take responsibility for certain maintenance services as well as building improvements and enhancements. Summerville’s vice president, Brian Summerville, has a personal attachment to the soccer complex and its current state.

“I’ve had three daughters in the Medford soccer program for the last 10 years so I’ve spent a lot of time there. They play in both spring and fall leagues over there. Honestly, I just reached a point where I was frustrated with how bad it looked,” Summerville said.

In the spring, Summerville reached out to township manager Chris Schultz to discuss what could be done to improve the complex. The township’s financial limitations made any park improvement an impossibility.

Summerville offered to provide the labor in exchange for signage acknowledging his company’s efforts in the restoration. The township was happy to oblige.

“The partnership with Brian is great for the township and for the entire community,” said Beth Portocalis, director of neighborhood affairs. “We’re looking to kick off the program in the fall.”

Medford’s partnership with an outside party to improve parks is not limited to just the Bob Bende complex. The dog park within Freedom Park is being managed by Freedom Barks, a non-profit organization volunteering to clean up the off-leash area in Medford. According to Portocalis, the township is working on an agreement with Freedom Barks where the organization would voluntarily take over the park.

“Partnering with users of the parks and other services is a great way for improvements to get done. It’s great to see members of the community partner together to better our township,” Portocalis said.

The maintenance of the complex’s four soccer fields will remain the township’s responsibility. According to Portocalis, the township hopes the trend of partnering with residents for community improvements is “the wave of the future.”

In the coming weeks, Summerville will meet with township officials as well as members of the Medford Youth Athletic Association to put together a “wish list” of things that need to be done. Summerville says they will implement a five-year maintenance program, putting safety first and maintenance issues second.

“First, we want to address the things that are safety hazards. Then from there, move onto replacing the siding that is rotting, replacing the gutters so the water doesn’t pour onto the siding,” Summerville said.

“Eventually, we hope to improve the overall look and appearance of the building and grounds.”