hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Rumson-Fair Haven sports triplet is back intact.

Two weeks after locking up a deal with Fair Haven to keep lacrosse and flag football as part of Rumson recreation, the Rumson council decided last week that crew, the third sport that was on the chopping block, will stay as well.

Keeping the alliance alive, though, means Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School‘s crew program will be dropped.

“I know you’re going to have some very disappointed children and parents when they hear about this,” resident Bill Quirk told the council.

Mayor John Ekdahl, though, says crew will be open to all R-FH students, but it will be run jointly by the rec departments of the two towns, he said. Involving the high school in the administration of the program would be cumbersome, he said.

“The biggest thought was it was difficult to have a shared-service agreement with three different parties,” Ekdahl said, adding that the rec program will be eligible for all the same regattas R-FH had previously participated in.

Rumson formed a crew program in 2006, and enlisted Fair Haven to join in. For the first two years, it was run by the Rumson recreation department. For the last two years, though, it switched over to R-FH. In that time its popularity soared; Quirk says having the high school run the program was a major factor in its growing success.

But with that success came problems for Rumson. The council said it became an inequitable venture for the borough, which offered all the maintenance, equipment and the launch point at Victory Park, while Rumson athletes often stood on the beach while Fair Haven kids dropped oars in the Navesink. In September, the council decided to drop Fair Haven from crew, as well as lacrosse and flag football, sparking outrage from residents of both boroughs.

Assenting to the outcry, the council worked with Fair Haven officials to try and make the partnership more fair. They ironed out a deal two weeks ago to keep lacrosse and football, as Fair Haven agreed to offer more fields for practice and games.

Fair Haven now will carry its weight to stay in crew, Ekdahl said, by offering its public works department for maintenance, upkeep and transportation, and the borough will make a “modest, fair” contribution toward the program. Plus it will host winter crew at the youth center, “which is a huge upgrade from where they are now,” Rumson Business Administrator Tom Rogers said.

“It’s already paying dividends,” Ekdahl said of the agreement.