Westside Sprayground Could Cost $500,000
The remediation of the Bellhaven Preserve on Locust Avenue carries a big price tag, though it's only an estimation at this point.
The proposed remediation of Locust Avenue's Bellhaven Preserve into a sprayground is being touted by proponents as a significant benefit to Red Bank's westside residents, especially its children, who have few neighborhood options when it comes to public parks and safe places to play.
Following a growing trend of area municipalities developing spraygrounds, which are essentially playgrounds with shallow pools, sprinklers and splash pads, Red Bank is hoping to create something that is easily accessible and will inspire children to get active.
But, it won't come cheap.
Though still in the early phases of planning, initial estimates for the sprayground have come in at just over $567,000. For some perspective, the council allocated just $2,500 a little more than a decade ago to fund Bellhaven.
In 2000, Red Bank turned the riverside plot into a small preserve with a winding path and a gazebo at the behest of its then Environmental Commission, which promised to tend to the park. Today, Bellhaven is overgrown and underused. Tall phragmites shield the view of the river and, more importantly, perhaps, views of the inside of the park. According to police, the isolated site has become a haven for criminal activity and is rarely used by neighborhood residents.
Though members of the commission are somewhat divided on what they'd like to see the site used for — though they all agree it's currently a mess — Red Bank's Parks and Recreation Department is smitten with the idea of a sprayground.
To help fund the project, Red Bank turned to grant applications. Monmouth County approved an open space grant for $239,000 late in December to help fund the proposed sprayground. Though the grant, which Red Bank must match, is a large sum, it's less than half of the projected costs of the sprayground. According to estimates, installing a playground and swings as well as a splash pad alone accounts for approximately $265,000 of the total project cost.
The park would also include a shoreline and walkway, in addition to other improvements.
Borough Administrator Stanley Sickles said Red Bank would likely bond the rest of the total. In recent years, the borough has successfully paid down its debt enabling it to borrow more money for improvements around town, like the park.
Parks and Recreation Director Memone Crystian said it's criminal that a generation of Red Bank children on the westside of town have grown up without access to decent parks and the river.
"I represent the children of Red Bank and those who don't have a voice," she said in an address to the Environmental Commission. "There is a particular need for a safe haven for children to call their own."
While the price tag may not be an issue for Red Bank, maintenance could be. Commission member Boris Kofman asked how the borough could keep up with a sprayground, which would likely require significant more maintenance and attention when compared to other parks. Red Bank has been criticized recently, not only for failing to keep up with Bellhaven, but also for the condition of other parks in town, such as Sunset lake.
Sickles admitted that some parks have seen better days but that Red Bank establishes a park priorities list. Parks that get used most often, like Count Basie Park, receive the most attention. Should the sprayground come to fruition, it would be treated in a similar fashion, unlike parks that provide passive recreation.
Sickles stressed, however, that the sprayground is still in its earliest phases and that no definitive plans have been set. He also said cost estimates like those for the sprayground are inflated to help cover any unforeseen expenses that might arise. Recently, bids for public park projects have been well under estimated costs, he said.
|Playground and Swings||$115,000|
|Landscaping and Remediation||$52,300|
|Total Estimated Cost||$567,034|