hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

At the request of some 50 residents and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High students,  the Rumson council on Wednesday revisited its controversial decision to take back the spring rowing program from the school.

And the council isn’t backpaddling on this one.

“We’re still going to move it” to the borough recreation department, where it began four years ago, said Mayor John Ekdahl.

While the move will likely re-peeve the R-FH stalwarts, Ekdahl says there will be virtually no change in the program, only who’s running it. The teams will still compete in the same regattas, rowers will still be able to include their participation on college applications, and the coaching staff — including head coach Dan Edwards, who left that role earlier this year — will remain intact, Ekdahl said.

“Really, if you’re one of the kids in the program you’ll hardly notice any difference,” Ekdahl said. “That’s why we’re surprised by the outrage, because it’s really the same thing.”

If it’s going to be the same thing, why bring it back to recreation then?

Ekdahl said it will return direct stewardship of the program back to where it started. In 2006, the rec department, through the Rumson Endowment Fund, raised about $300,000 to purchase boats and equipment to launch crew. The borough then bought a small waterfront plot adjacent to Victory Park for access to the Navesink River. The rec department oversaw all crew programs for the first two years, then gave control of spring rowing to R-FH as an experiment.

In that time, crew has taken off, and parents have argued that having it as a high school sport is largely responsible for the boom. But Ekdahl said crew was successful prior to moving to R-FH, and that shouldn’t change when it moves back to recreation’s guidance.

“All things being equal, Rumson crew has the best chance of success going forward by returning to its roots, where the program was established four years prior,” he said in a news release.

The council’s decision finalizes months of dispute over crew.

There was a flutter back in September when the council, citing capacity issues in its summer Learn To Row program, cut Fair Haven from all three of its athletic partnerships, including crew. The two boroughs have since struck deals to make the pact more equitable.

As far as this latest move is concerned, Ekdahl said Fair Haven leadership was consulted and all sides are in agreement with bring crew back to recreation.

“We feel fine with it and so does Fair Haven,” he said. “For the second time we’ve made this decision and we’re sticking to it.”