Mayor’s Message: My reflection of Harrison Township

This week we hear from Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis with her perspective on how our community has evolved over the last three decades

Photo of Old Town Hall from the National Register of Historical Places (National Park Service/Special to The Sun).

Last week my husband Dominic and I drove past the shopping area behind our landmark Harrison House Diner. The building complex includes the Amish Market, a physical therapy practice, restaurants, a pharmacy, dry cleaners and a nail salon. Dominic commented, “remember when that was going to ruin the town?” I actually didn’t remember and he reminded me of the controversy connected to this new, modern looking, commercial complex and the fear that it would diminish our historical Main Street.

Change. Inevitable and constant.

In 1990, when we moved into Mullica Hill, housing developments were new to the township. In the next couple of decades, housing developments grew exponentially and the township was literally the fastest growing town in the entire state. To describe the growth in terms of population, from 1980 to 2010 the number of residents grew from 3,585 to 12,417. The township expanded all emergency services, police, public works services including road maintenance, trash pick up and snow removal. Schools were built, parks were planned.

While the community underwent this metamorphosis, the leaders of the township worked together, meeting the demand for change and maintaining Harrison Township’s historical, rural-agricultural roots. Farmland and open space preservation, planning and zoning as well as getting Mullica Hill’s Historic District added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today the majority of the Township’s growth is in Richwood. The new Inspira Hospital, Rowan University’s plan for it’s west campus development and the Richwood Town Center are once again creating change. The goals of the township during this transformation will remain steady, protecting our quality of life using smart growth planning and preservation of our historical and agricultural assets. I want to take a moment and concentrate on something that has been constant, the kindness of Harrison Township’s residents. In 1990 my husband and I were the “new people,” the outsiders. However, I was never made to feel like an outsider. In fact, multi-generational residents welcomed us with kindness and generosity. This is Harrison Township.