by Alexander Mirabella
Chairman, Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders
UNION COUNTY, N.J- As a parent, I could not help but notice a recent news headline that read, “Heroin use among young in N.J. is up, and in more suburban areas.” It was a strong reminder that trends in drug and alcohol abuse are constantly changing, requiring constant vigilance. Here in Union County we are more resolved than ever to help parents provide their children with positive experiences that encourage healthy habits.
In this regard, Union County parents can draw upon some unique resources and longstanding traditions.
About 90 years ago, Union County became one of the first counties in the entire nation to establish its own park system. The aim was to promote a wide variety of healthy outdoor activities from organized sports and summer camps to hiking, fishing, boating, golf, swimming and even horseback riding.
We are constantly adding new programs as new trends and interests arise, some of which are difficult or impossible to find anywhere else in our region. That includes new skateboarding parks, a new Olympic-quality archery range, and a new First Tee youth development program at our Galloping Hill golf course. The popular new sport of disc golf may also be added in the future.
Our recreation schedule is also packed with family-friendly special events from spring to fall, and one that I’d like to mention in particular is Red Ribbon Day.
Red Ribbon Day has been held every year in Union County for 14 years, as a way to provide parents with a relaxed, friendly atmosphere in which they can start a family conversation about making healthy choices, even when their children are very young. This year’s Red Ribbon Day is scheduled for Saturday, October 20 at Oak Ridge Park in Clark.
The festivities start with the Red Ribbon 5K Run at 9:30 a.m. and the Family Fun Walk at 10:00 a.m. From 11:00 to 4:00 there will be a full slate of free activities and games for children, exhibits, a health fair, and even a real helicopter landing.
It’s a great way to celebrate the last days of seasonable weather for outdoor fun.
When the weather turns cold, our Trailside Nature and Science Center in Mountainside offers another option. It is open every day of the year except holidays. Admission is always free, and there are many affordably priced events and programs for children.
Another indoor option is our beautifully restored, historic Union County Performing Arts Center in downtown Rahway. Along with the new Hamilton Stage performance space, there are child-friendly performances, activities, classes and special events all year.
All in all, as a parent I recognize that substance abuse prevention is one of the most difficult challenges a parent can face. Every bit of extra help can make a difference, and Union County’s public recreation resources are here to support you.
For more information about Red Ribbon Day including the 5K Run and Family Fun Walk, visit preventionlinks.org or call 732-381-4100.
For complete information on Union County parks and activities visit the County website, ucnj.org.