Borough applies for grant to place fitness center in Wheeler Park

Area targeted toward open, safe exercise for senior population.

During its open public session on March 23, Haddonfield’s board of commissioners unanimously agreed to approve an application for a Community Development Block Grant, whose anticipated funds are expected to be applied toward the installation of a fitness court targeted for older adults at Wheeler Park.

“I know that each year there are funds available through the CDBG. The small amounts we do get, we use to do different community improvements like curb cuts on sidewalks and handicap accessibility facilities,” said Commissioner Jeffrey Kasko. 

“And I believe this one is to allow Mayor (Neal) Rochford to sign a project description that will allow us to install the fitness court.”

Wheeler Park is a small strip of land along Upland Way, adjacent to the PATCO tracks, that often hosts residents who walk their dogs or those out for a stroll through a quieter patch of land than nearby Crows Woods. 

As Borough Administrator Sharon McCullough explained, approximately five  years ago, the process for obtaining the block grants was altered. Originally, each town used to receive a small piece of the pie that the county consortium would receive from the state. But in finding that certain municipalities weren’t  spending the money in a timely manner, (the state) switched to a competitive process. 

What commissioners agreed on was the submission for the grant itself, within the competitive process, to receive the full funds requested.  

The fitness area would be one that allows for kinesthetics and various weight exercises. Ideally, it could be used in conjunction with Mabel Kay Senior Center and enable older adults, when safe to do so and with appropriate precautions, to participate in a safe exercise program. 

Commissioner Colleen Bianco Bezich told the Sun on April 6 that the borough anticipates the total installation cost of the project to be $165,000, including a concrete slab or bedding for stabilization, along with the actual court and equipment. She added the borough also plans to spend about $5,000 for bid specifications.

Not known for sure at this point is when the borough would be notified if the grant application was accepted. Bezich offered that it could be some time in the next couple of months. 

“The purpose of applying for this particular CDBG funding is for it to be utilized by our seniors or for those with low or moderate incomes,” Bezich explained on March 23. (The state) looks at who is benefitted by these projects, and so we proposed one which would serve the needs of seniors as well as the general population.”

  1. Wheeler Park was partially identified because of its proximity to the senior center and to Tarditi Commons. McCullough added that the borough is waiting until the grant situation is resolved to move forward on an exact location for the outdoor gym. 

“It’s in the ‘idea phase’ and we’re tentatively thinking it would be somewhere in (the park),” she noted. “At this point, we really want to see if we can get the funding first,.and then we will take a look to see where the space would fit the best.”

Since such a project is of a certain cost and scale, Bezich said the borough would likely have to advertise for bids first. The bidding process may also involve a request for proposals. 

If the grant funds are received, Bezich estimated that court construction would begin about two and a half months after a bid would be awarded by commissioners.