By Kathleen M. Fitzpatrick
By thinking outside the box and coordinating several projects, my community just completed building a recreational hill for a small fraction of the normal cost.
Memorial Hill will provide a scenic place for recreation and relaxation at Memorial Park, our township’s largest facility. It will be an additional children’s play area and offers local sports teams, runners, and walkers a challenging training option. Finally, it will become a central location for sledding and wintertime fun.
Opened in 1976, Memorial Park’s original design contained a hill; however the feature was never installed. Cost factors made construction economically prohibitive with today’s price tag approximating $200,000.
The project jumped to the fore after our all-volunteer Parks and Recreation Commission, which advises the township and recommends park improvements, unanimously endorsed the concept. Other communities in the area hosting sledding hills include Mt. Laurel, Moorestown, Delran and Lumberton.
Shortly thereafter Deputy Mayor Don Brauckmann, who also serves as director of parks and recreation, developed an astonishly novel approach for accomplishing several important township goals, specifically cleaning up Cinnaminson’s compost and recovery facilities as mandated by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, reusing leftover materials from the township’s street milling operation, expanding the parking lot at Memorial Park, and repairing the walking trail at the park.
The township had been ordered by DEP to clean and remove thousands of cubic yards of organic material from its composting and brush recovery facilities. While it’s an expensive proposition to remove, transport, and dispose of this material, noncompliance would bring exposure to steep fines and penalties so we had to move quickly.
Where others saw obstacles, Brauckmann saw an opportunity. Well known for pursuing environmentally minded policies as our parks director, Brauckmann has led Township Committee’s “Go Green” initiatives like the successful “Eco-Towne” partnership with local developer J.S. Hovnanian and championed clean-up efforts at township parks. However, his inventive ideas in the creation of Memorial Hill have now taken recycling and reuse to the next level.
Working with Committeeman Ben Young, who also serves as director of public works, Brauckmann developed a comprehensive plan to re-use discarded asphalt millings from the township’s road resurfacing paving in order to expand Memorial Park’s parking lot and repair the walking trail. Both were high priority items but challenging to implement in light of the township’s extremely tight budget.
Because the parking lot was being expanded into an area below power lines, the ground had to be lowered and thousands of yards of earthen material removed. Yet Brauckmann saw another opportunity to save money by keeping the earthen materials on-site for use in creating Memorial Hill.
Confronted with the DEP disposal dilemma, Brauckmann applied the same innovative approach. He arranged to have material from the township’s composting and recovery facilities redirected to the park which saved tens of thousands more in disposal costs.
Furthermore, reusing this material for the hill saved valuable space at the County’s landfill facility. Cinnaminson is strongly committed to environmental responsibility along with fiscal responsibility.
One final hurdle still needed to be cleared. Though we had over 4,000 cubic yards of clean material for our hill, this wasn’t enough to construct the hill as designed. So Brauckmann and Young reached out to the local development community to find enough material to complete the hill. Whittendale Excavating of Moorestown stepped forward and provided the balance of the material for a small fraction of its actual market value.
All the cost saving ideas, added together, nearly offset the cost of building the hill. Net outlays from the project totaled $17,000. This is a far cry from the original $200,000 estimate.
This project is a triple winner. First, township residents will be able to enjoy an exciting recreational opportunity. Second, recycling and reuse of materials truly benefits our environment. Finally, the cost savings from all of the reuse and recycling meant the project could be completed with minimal budget impact.
Plus we now have an expanded parking lot which was really needed, our walking trail is much improved, the DEP is happy we’re in full compliance with their mandate, and we added the final feature to the original Memorial Park vision. It doesn’t get any better than this.
However it did get better.
By working closely with the township’s liability insurance broker, John Hanuscin of Fairway Insurance Services, Inc. of Cinnaminson, we ensured that the township would not bear any premium increases.
This well-planned initiative is a perfect example of how creative thinking, going green, and partnering with the private sector can maximize value and minimize cost. It’s a model for how government should operate
Originally published in New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 88, Number 9, December 2011