What We Do
Providing Funding and Support to the Somerset County Park Commission
The Somerset County Park Foundation supports a variety of Park Commission projects such as the Therapeutic Recreation programs which is a cooperative effort between the Park Commission and 16 municipalities within Somerset County. The Therapeutic Recreation (TR) Department is dedicated to providing recreation and leisure opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and Asperger’s Syndrome. The goal of the TR department is to promote an active leisure lifestyle that improves social, physical, cognitive and emotional functioning and health while enhancing each participant’s abilities. In addition to providing scholarships to both children and adults with developmental disabilities to attend the program, the Park Foundation has also purchased handicapped accessible vehicles to be used to transport program participants. Their support has also enabled TR staff to create a handbell choir program, purchase single rider golf carts, purchase an FM system for the hearing impaired, provide funds to further expand activities at Camp Okee Sunokee, and expand various music, fitness, craft, and other programs.
Leonard J. Buck Garden
The Leonard J. Buck Garden is on the premier rock gardens in the eastern United States. Begun in the late 1930s, the garden has reached a breathtaking point of maturity. It consists of a series of alpine and woodland gardens situated in a 33-acre wooded stream valley. Named for Mr. Leonard J. Buck, who developed the garden as part of his estate, it was donated to the Somerset County Park Commission by his wife, Mrs. Helen Buck in 1976. The Park Foundation, in conjunction with support from the Helen R. Buck Foundation, has assisted the garden in continuing its excellence, by contributing funds to prepare and fulfill its master plan. Other projects have included a rustic gazebo placed in the meadow of the garden, creation of the Helen R. Buck hilltop trail, purchase of a botanical garden mapping system, handrails and garden step replacement, teak benches, plants, and maps and brochures. With financial assistance from the Helen R. Buck Foundation, in recent years, Buck Garden staff planted a variety of new shrubs, plants, and flowers, and secured services to trim and prune trees and perform pesticide treatments The Upper Nursery Area received a facelift with cold frames and new steps were installed. Funding for new bluebird boxes to attract birds to help pollinate the plants was also donated.
Perhaps the greatest honor is protecting our freedoms while serving our country in the military, and so it was with great pride and respect that the Somerset County Park Commission was able to pay tribute to Vietnam veterans and all American war veterans by twice hosting the traveling version of the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in North Branch Park. Support from the Park Foundation, along with the American Veterans Traveling Tribute project and the local Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 452 made this possible. The four-day event also included a variety of exhibits view by 10,000 people, including the World War II, Korean War, and Golf Wars exhibits; 9/11 Memorial; and USA historical documents. A ride of honor by Rolling Thunder past the wall was part of the closing ceremonies.
The Foundation also underwrote some of the cost for Neshanic Valley Golf Course to host the United States Golf Association’s Women’s Amateur Public Links Championship (WAPL). 156 women from around the world competed and earned the golf course more accolades in addition to excellence in design awards, turf grass awards, and environmental stewardship awards. Several magazines have also named it a top New Jersey course to play. During the WAPL, the golfers competed in two days of stroke play, narrowing the field to 64 players. The women then competed in match play, until after four more days of play, Kyung Kim of Chandler, AZ beat Ashlan Ramsey of Milledgeville, GA on the 6,221-yard, par 72 course.
The Park Foundation, in conjunction with the Dr. Michael S. Kline Family, has also provided scholarship for youth to attend the Park Commission’s Junior Golf program. The Junior Golf Program was organized to introduce and promote the game of golf to boys and girls, ages 6-17. The program begins with the basic information and progresses from one level to another, It also offers the junior golfer an opportunity to have fun playing the game in a comfortable and supervised atmosphere, as well as an opportunity to compete.
Through a generous donation from Raymond and Roseann Brown to the Foundation, four free summer concerts were held on Sunday evenings in August 2021 in Duke Island Park. Funds were approved to cover the cost of securing two equine experts from Rutgers University to work with a Park Commission committee to consider the future uses and programming at Lord Stirling Stable.
Capital Facility Projects
The Park Foundation has generously supported various projects throughout the park system that were unable to be funded in the Operating or Capital Budgets of the Park Commission. These include a scoreboard and sound system at the Frank Torpey Athletic Complex, an iPad and Router to help operate the sound system used in conjunction with the mobile stage, a gazebo, and roses and plants at the Colonial Park Rose Garden, a weather vane at Neshanic Valley Golf Course, a flagpole at Duke Island Park and lumber to repair bridges on the trail system at the Environmental Education Center in Lord Stirling Park. Matched funding to desilt the Lily Pond at the EEC was also approved, as was funding to create a forest plan for the park. The EEC conducted a “Rebuild the Boardwalks” campaign, with donations submitted through the Foundation. They have exceeded the goal of $10,000 needed to repair storm damage.
Marketing of Programs and Events
The Park Foundation recognizes the limited funding available to market all of the expansive facilities, programs, and special events offered throughout the year. The Foundation has been happy to provide grants to share this information through various means including funding portions of a media campaign, the Somerset Patriots Autograph Sundays poster showcasing summer youth programs of the Park, and creation of various maps and brochures.
Raymond L. Hughes Golf Tournament
For the past 30 years, perhaps the biggest fundraiser is the annual (formerly Pro/Celebrity Golf Tournament) held the first Monday in May. The Raymond L. Hughes golf tournament has raised more than $1,000,000 for the Somerset County Park Foundation, supporting a variety of Park Commission programs with a majority of funding dedicated to the Therapeutic Recreation Department.