By: Melissa A. Kay
Passion about the benefits of recreation and a genuine enjoyment for bringing the community together makes the Mt. Olive Recreation Department staff smile. Director of Marketing, Liz Meininger, was eager and enthusiastic to share her sentiments about the vibrant department, from her personal pride in what they do from day to day to the many perks offered to the residents of Mt. Olive and the surrounding areas. “Experience, enthusiasm, dedication, and a healthy helping of fun describes our culture,” says Meininger. With seemingly endless things to see, do, explore, and more, the Mt. Olive Recreation Department is always planning ahead to be sure the upcoming season is even better than the last. And when it comes to keeping things fresh, family-friendly, and fun, the entire Recreation Department team does their part in providing the Mt. Olive area with an overflow of activities and attractions.
In order to keep things running smoothly and successfully, the Mt. Olive Recreation Department team not only
works with one another internally but branches out into the community to form mutually beneficial partnerships and garner support. Meininger explains, “We enjoy a wonderful relationship with almost 200 local businesses and entrepreneurs. The Recreation Department works closely with the Department of Public Works concerning park improvements and events, and recycling initiatives/promotion. We coordinate with all the township departments for events and activities and are grateful for their help. We are actively involved with the New Jersey Recreation and Park Association, participating in workshops, conferences, mentoring programs, and more.”
To get to the place the Recreation Department is at now, it is important to note the rich history of how it all came about. The department was developed in 1975 by Eric Schulte, the first Recreation and Parks Director, with the aid of an appointed advisory committee. With the help of local volunteers, the department flourished, allowing for sports, activities and programs, special events, and more to take shape and provide the Mt. Olive community with an exciting array of recreational options to choose from seasonally. The nearby Budd Lake Beach is the perfect spot for summer fun and gives beach goers a chance to splash and swim, partake in water exercise classes, and participate on other beach-friendly activities.
Today, Jill Daggon serves as Recreation Supervisor. Meininger describes Daggon’s role, “As the department head, she hopes to inspire her team, researches and implements best practices and policies for all aspects of recreation, selects and trains the summer staff, plans department budgets, and proudly wears a T-shirt that proclaims, ‘I have a spread sheet for that!’ She meets with new program providers and reviews proposals. Jill also works with the nine sports associations that provide instructional and travel sports programs, and liaises with a variety of committees and township initiatives. She also does whatever is needed by the recreation staff, so they can do their best.” Busy as expected, but thrilled to be in charge of such a generous gift to Mt. Olive and its residents. Along with Meininger, Assistant Director of Marketing Bill Caldarola, and Recreation Assistant Corey Kozimor, as well as others who provide their services to keep the Recreation Department running, Daggon’s work is highly acclaimed and endlessly appreciated by those who make the most of all the department brings to the Mt. Olive community.
Thankfully and deservedly, as of 2009, Meininger explains, “The Recreation Department is self-supporting and
sustaining, through programming, sponsorships, and donations. In recent years, the Mayor and Council have been kind enough to allow us to grow by providing capital funds to improve our infrastructure needs so we can better serve our public.”
There is never a shortage of things to do with the Mt. Olive Recreation Department’s overflowing year-round calendar to thank. A few examples from an extraordinary number of to-dos include April’s recent Bubble Palooza 5K,
June’s Raiders of the Lost Park Mud Run, July’s Mt. Olive Carnival, a ‘Touch-A-Truck’ for kids to come later this summer, as well as a Food Truck & Fireworks Festival, and lots of splashing around at Budd Lake Beach including Pirate Day. This fall brings hungry bellies a mouthwatering Chili Brew Fest, an Oktoberfest celebration, and the Bonfire Boutique, featuring 35 local vendors. Wait for winter when the festive Holiday Village at Turkey Brook brings a winter wonderland to Mt. Olive. And the list goes on and on…
From the wee ones to the older set, there are plenty of well-planned programs the Mt. Olive Recreation Department offers locals. As for the kids, educational and entertaining afterschool programs and evening activities are aplenty, from arts and crafts courses to theater groups to science/tech workshops to sports clinics and more for children in kindergarten up to teenagers in grade 12 – even SAT courses and babysitting training classes for high schoolers. Adults get in on the action as well with activities and programs for ages 18 and up. Arts and sports are favorites, and continuing education including bookkeeping, photography, language, and coaching enrich adults’ lives with valuable schooling and skills.
Summer camp is another reason for kids to look forward to the warm weather. Destination Discovery is a full-day camp which offers before- and after-care, making it a doable option for working parents. The summer camp runs for seven straight weeks (Mon. – Fri.) and each week the camp has an overall theme that is incorporated into the activities of the day. Campers explore, develop teamwork techniques, learn social interaction skills, play games and sports, and engage in arts and crafts. Trips to the nearby Pirate’s Cove Splashpad and Turkey Brook Park are scheduled each week, as well as a special camper’s day at the Mt. Olive Carnival, a movie day, and a day trip to Hopatcong State Park. Additional camps offered include Get Up & Go, a half-day program at Mt. View School, U.S. Sports Camps for basketball, tennis, soccer, and multi-sports, Summer Hoop Madness, Movie Making by Incrediflix, Playwell Lego Camp, Engineering for Kids, Drone & RC Car Workshop, Pony Camp, Young Rembrandt’s Art Camp, Kaleidoscope Science and Splash Camp, and others that are still being dreamed up by the Mt. Olive Recreation Department staff. Summer can’t come soon enough!
The Mt. Olive Pool is a prime place to cool off come summertime. Meininger gives some detail, “Mt. Olive Pool at Centercourt is a public – private partnership established in 2018, which won the League of Municipalities Innovation in Governance Award. The main pool is heated and is a modified ‘Z’ shape. Separate from the main pool, the baby pool has a zero depth entry ramp with a maximum depth 26”. This pool also features two interactive spray areas. The property also includes a picnic area, concession stand, 100+ lounge chairs, and a sand volleyball court. This year, pool members will have access to the outdoor tennis courts too.”
As if the pool area isn’t enough water fun for Mt. Olive area folks, Pirates Cove Splashpad takes splashing around to the next step. Meininger sums it up, “Pirates Cove Splashpad is an all-abilities water playground with 18 spray features, including the giant 90 gallon SuperSplash bucket. The area also includes a shade pergola and some seating. We we also offer picnic tables with umbrellas, and a gazebo area which can be rented for parties and gatherings.”
The Mt. Olive Recreation Department is doing more than its share to make the area even more amazing than it already is, and the devoted department team loves what they do and who they do it for. “We are so glad we are in a community that cares for each other and loves coming together to have fun in so many different ways,” says Meininger. “We try to focus on providing a great experience.” Mt. Olive residents will attest to the fact that the Recreation Department is doing just that…and then some.
For more information about the Mt. Olive Recreation Department, upcoming events and activities, and to enroll your children in one of the 2019 summer camp options, visit their website at rec.mountolivetownship.com. Here you’ll find a bounty of things to do with family, friends, and neighbors.
The Mt. Olive Recreation Department’s mission statement reads, “RECognizing the immense value of learning and fun rolled into one, Mount Olive Recreation enriches lives, promotes health and encourages a sense of community,” and those who partake in their plentiful offerings understand why the department is so special and successful.