• Gabriel Donio

Local government needs to make decisions about parks


The street hockey rink at the 11th Street Fields from July 2021. (THG/Gabe Donio)

I read somewhere that the number one trait of successful CEOs isn’t automatically what you might think it is.


What I read said the top attribute of successful CEOs is decisiveness.


The same could be said about successful local governments, particularly in Hammonton.

Unfortunately, decisiveness appears to be in short supply right now in local government circles, particularly when it comes to our parks.


Come on, people. Make a decision or two and follow it through to completion. It’s not as hard as it looks.


It’s a good idea to ask for others’ opinions. Throw a survey out there, hire a landscape architect, ask the people sitting in the luncheonette their views, for all I care.


The problem comes when our leaders become paralyzed from all that asking, all that information gathering. Worse, they use those surveys and that landscape architect as excuses for why they aren’t accomplishing any goals.


That’s no way to lead.


Oh, they can be decisive when they want to be. When Mayor Stephen DiDonato wanted to bring a turf field to the Boyer Avenue Recreational Area, he made sure it was fast-tracked and an agreement was signed, an agreement that included $500,000 in taxpayer money toward the deal with SJA Sports Turf LLC.


One council member corrected me and said it was “up to” $500,000. I know of a lot of government projects that don’t use their entire budgets. Don’t you?


Now, if we have $500,000 lying around to help dig up a soccer field that we built a few years ago at taxpayer expense for a new turf field (public statements by the mayor say that $1.5 million will be put toward the project by local resident Jeff Umosella as well), then it is hoped that we also have a couple million dollars lying around to fix all the remaining park areas that aren’t receiving a turf field, partially at taxpayer expense.


Decisiveness is what built the new town hall. Mayor John DiDonato and his town council had it. They had guts, made decisions without referendums and focus groups and guess what? The town hall and other projects were completed.


We could use that kind of leadership today.


In the absence of decisiveness by the town council, let me make a few quick decisions on what should be done with the parks.


• A strict maintenance schedule should be created and implemented.


• In the spring, all the buildings at Hammonton Lake Park that require it should be painted. Work with interested locals who understand design as well as the Hammonton Little League and the Hammonton Hawks on the color scheme. Have the colors mesh with the Kiwanis Community Complex and the Hammonton Canoe Club. Have uniform signage at the park—including the entrance on Park Avenue, the corner of Park Avenue and Egg Harbor Road and on the front of the masonry between the two sandstone pylons facing Massarelli’s on Egg Harbor Road.


• Introduce the new playground equipment at Cpt. Gerard V. Palma Park at Hammonton Lake Park.


• Return the boards to the skating rink at 11th Street. Make it a multi-purpose rink, which can be used for street hockey, soccer, pickleball, a skate park and in the winter—ice skating. Light it up with new lights to encourage use and restore the late Chris Adirzone’s name to the rink. Resurface the basketball courts, irrigate the softball fields, put up a nice sign for the entire facility and delineate parking.


• Within budget and reason, use the landscape architect’s suggestions, provided they are in keeping with the character of our parks and our community.


Enough deliberating. Make some decisions, create some plans and see them through to fruition.


The public had to sit through decades of blather before a new town hall was built.


If the current “all talk and no action” method of governance seems familiar to the public, it’s only because they sat through it before when the potential location for a new municipal building veered from location to location throughout town. As that process wore on, nothing was accomplished.


Get to work. Get things done.


Otherwise, eventually, someone else will.



Gabe Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.