Renovations and Longer Hours for Count Basie Park
With Red Bank looking to make improvements to the park, residents are given more public access after airing their complaints.
Count Basie Park underwent extensive renovations last year with the addition of new track and artificial turf football field. But, if Red Bank can find more available funding it won’t stop there.
Borough Engineer Christine Ballard presented a plan to the council during its Wednesday meeting that includes installing two more artificial turf fields, one a baseball field and the other a softball and Little League baseball field, which would allow both girls and boys youth athletes to play under lights.
The improvements also include a half-mile jogging track that will circle the perimeter of the park property.
Ballard estimated the cost at approximately $500,000 and asked the borough to approve a resolution allowing her department to submit for grant funding from the Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres program.
Though the borough was keen on the improvement idea, much of the discussion concerning the Count Basie Park Wednesday night dealt with concerns raised by residents over the course of several weeks.
At last month’s Westside Red Bank Community Meeting, first reported by Patch, residents complained about locked gates that restricted access to the new turf field and track. Though the borough eventually extended hours, as first reported by Patch, from 7am to 9pm, residents still questioned why they couldn’t access the park at longer hours, like they had before renovations took place.
Borough officials, including Mayor Pat Menna, attended the most recent Westside meeting and promised to consider extending hours. At the council meeting, Menna, along with council members Sharon Lee and Art Murphy, stuck to their words by increasing the hours of access to the park.
Now, Count Basie Park’s track and field will be open at 5am to accommodate early risers looking to get out and exercise. While 9pm is still closing time – for now anyway – the borough’s departments of recreation and public works, which work together to maintain the park, will discuss extending nighttime hours.
Still, Murphy said the limited access to the park is meant to protect the borough’s investment. Some residents wondered if Red Bank wasn’t necessarily protecting Red Bank Catholic’s investment in the property. According to Business Administrator Stanley Sickles, the borough received more than $500,000 to make improvements to the park. That total was matched by the Catholic high school, which also pays an annual fee to hold sporting events there.
Lee said public access is limited, simply because times have changed. She was supportive, however, as were Menna and Murphy, of opening the park earlier to accommodate residents.
“This is about neighborhood access,” she said. “What they’re asking for will not take too much effort.”
How the new improvements hamper access, if all, remains to be seen. At a Red Bank Board of Education meeting recently, board President Ann Roseman read a correspondence from the borough asking for the board’s support in moving ahead with renovation plans. The district owns a small portion of Count Basie Park but has had a lease agreement with the borough for more than 30 years.
“It seems like the more improvements they make the less public access they allow,” she said.
Ultimately, it was determined that the board had no leverage asking Red Bank’s council to make any changes, however.