Smith's Clove Park: focus point for Monroe activities

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:43

    MONROE - Smith's Clove Park, the 70-acre tract of land that lies behind the three stone pillars on Spring Street, is synonymous with Monroe sports. Just about every team activity there is from hockey to basketball, from tennis to handball, from football to soccer is practiced and played on one of the park fields or courts. It's a place where townspeople come together to coach a game, view it from the stands, or enjoy a family party by one of the pavilions. Donated in 1965 by Roscoe W. Smith, founder of the Orange & Rockland Utilities Company, the park has continually been fulfilling the stipulation made by Smith at the time, that it be used solely for recreation. Smith's Clove Park has an extremely busy social calendar all year long. The coordination of these events, plus the responsibility of maintaining the grounds and initiating improvements, is handled by the Monroe Joint Parks Recreation Commission (MJPRC). This commission, founded at the time the lands were donated, consists of representatives from the town and village of Monroe; five from each, making a total of 10, These meetings, open to the public, are held at the Smith's Clove Park Recreation Office on the fourth Monday of each month. Recently, the commission has been involved in the creation of exciting new play areas and programs. For instance, a state-of-the-art Skate Park will have its official unveiling sometime in May, and a new children's playground with wheelchair accessibility is in the works as well. Also planned is an ID system to ensure that the facilities and programs are being used by residents of the Village of Monroe and the unincorporated Town of Monroe -- a policy that the MJPRC strives to strictly enforce. Tony Cardone, chairman of the MJPRC, explains "this system was something the residents have been asking for. The commission has been working diligently for nearly a year, to find the best way to start up this program and to keep it as cost-efficient as possible." Under the guidance of the MJPRC, the park also receives a facelift throughout the year as fields get re-seeded, lines get repainted, courts get resurfaced, and lights get replaced. The Park staff is currently in the process of improving drainage and irrigation on three fields. Probably the most widely attended and most popular program the park provides is the summer youth activity camp, or as it is commonly referred to, "YAC." The camp is sponsored by the MJPRC, follows the guidelines as set forth by Orange County and New York State, and is a very inexpensive way to provide recreation to the children of Monroe. The six-week day camp starts up right after the July 4 holiday and runs through the second week of August and offers sport activities, arts & crafts, intramural events, "special-themed" days, and field trips. Extended day hours are also available at a nominal fee, and parents are encouraged to purchase a pre-paid card to eliminate daily transactions. The field trips, though are extra, but can range from a 3-D movie at the IMAX theatre, a round of mini-golf at The Castle in Chester, or a day at the Orange County Fair. Buses are available to bring the children back and forth from the events with adults and counselors constantly providing supervision. For those children who do not attend the trips, the camp activities continue back at the park. Says Cardone, "We are very proud of the YAC camp and the personnel who come forward to help direct it. Every summer, we register hundreds of kids, and what's especially rewarding is that the campers come back year after year and eventually become counselors." YAC registration dates are Sunday, May 16 from 2 to 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 26 from 7 to 9 p.m., Thursday, May 27 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, June 5 from 10 to 1 p.m. As the town of Monroe grows, so does the demand for more recreation. The MJPRC, which has jurisdiction only over Smith's Clove Park events, is always on the look out for trained instructors who can offer part-time programs. Last summer, a tennis program was begun, and was an immediate hit; this spring, a beginner photography class for kids has been planned and will run for four weeks. These new programs join an already full roster of events that include movies in the summer, a dance mixer for kids 9 n 12, basketball camp, babysitting classes and Holiday traditions like the "egg hunt," and the "tree lighting." There's always something coming up at the park, and residents can get that information in a variety of ways. The "coming events" board for example, just outside the park is updated regularly; the local channel 22 lists all activities; and announcements in The Photo News will highlight special events and registration information for YAC. YAC registration forms and other park information can be obtained at the town website,, or by calling the park activity phone line: 783-9108. An email address has also been established where residents can send questions and comments. That address is "We have never lost sight of Mr. Smith's request that the park be used for family recreation," Cardone explains, "and are always interested in new ideas and ways to improve the park. "