Community urged to give input on Open Space and Recreation Plan updates

The OSRP, which addresses Washington Townships land preservation needs, will be updated and submitted for adoption into the Master Plan.

By Krista Cerminaro

Washington Township’s Open Space Advisory Committee is encouraging community members to voice their input on the Open Space and Recreation Plan update, to eventually be adopted as part of the Master Plan.

“[The] Open Space and Recreation Plan is meant to take kind of a comprehensive look at our open spaces in Washington Township, what our needs are, how we’ve achieved those needs, and to sort of set forth our goals and an action plan to achieve those goals,” Open Space committee member and Environmental Commission chair Vicky Binetti said.

Binetti explained the OSRP focuses on outdoor facilities such as parks and parklands, undeveloped land, open fields, recreational lands such as basketball courts, and other various open spaces owned by the township.

“We’re interested in preserving open space, and basically making it more recreationally-friendly to the township,” chairman of the Open Space committee and member of the Environmental Commission Leon Lakritz said. “What we’re aiming for, is that we want the public to be as involved as possible, so we’re giving the public a number of opportunities to give their input. We have a copy of the plan at the municipal building, at the library [and] on our website.”

The OSRP is looking at how it can maintain parks and parklands, as well as improve them for active and passive recreation, according to Binetti.

“We also want to pay a lot of attention as to how we optimally use the land that we have,” Binetti said.

Lakritz noted one objective of the new OSRP is to give the committee direction and insight as to what it should be doing in the next five years in terms of utilizing the land in the best possible way.

“One of the programs we’re looking into is forestry, to better manage what we have,” Lakritz said.

“Some of the things that we’re working on are bluebird trails, that sort of thing, so that folks could have a better appreciation of our open spaces, and [as] always, our efforts are to make them more accessible,” Binetti said. “What we hope is that they’ll see kind of a more increased awareness of what our open spaces are.”

Additional goals, Binetti said, are improved trails, improved bike paths and being more aggressive in securing grant funds for those types of projects.

The OSRP was developed in 2001, and an interim update was made in 2009 — but Binetti said this was not officially adopted into the Master Plan.

“It’s time to update it, clearly. We’re much different than we were in 2001 and in 2009,” Binetti said. “The landscape has changed tremendously. There’s been a lot of commercial development, some residential development, [and] although the population hasn’t changed significantly, there’s been substantial residential development. So, there are homes and businesses where there didn’t used to be. We’ve also acquired a lot of open space — over 300 acres — in the decade beginning 2001, so that we had permanently preserved a lot of land, which is a cool thing.”

The Open Space Advisory Committee presented the draft OSRP update at the Feb. 28 Township Council meeting, and gave the opportunity for public comment.

“The feedback that we got [was] that people were quite interested,” Binetti said.

Residents looking to provide their input on the draft OSRP update can submit comments to WTEC@twp.washington.nj.us and indicate “OSRP Update” in the subject line, or send them to the Washington Township Open Space Advisory Committee, P.O. Box 1106 in Turnersville. Public comments will be accepted through March 16.

“We’re open to all ideas — good, bad, new,” Binetti said.