BERKELEY – Hoping to continue growth rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy and attempting to maintain its budget, the township ended the year with an eye toward some major projects within its borders for the coming year.
In addition, 2016 began with the second term for Mayor Carmen Amato, and swearing in of council members, including new councilman Keith Buscio. November had no township seats up for the election, but this year the four ward seats will be up for grabs.
Berkeley Island County Park
An Ocean County project to rebuild Berkeley Island County Park just broke ground before Christmas, with county officials saying the reconstruction might take 18 months.
The $8 million project addresses the crumbling park, which has seen tremendous wear and tear in its three decades but also suffered tremendous damage from Superstorm Sandy, county and local officials said.
A living shoreline will take up some of the swimming area, but it should still be a popular spot for fishing, crabbing and picnicking, and an addition of a spray park will also hopefully get folks enjoying the park again, said Mayor Carmen Amato.
He said that while the $8 million project is the county’s, many people call the township assuming it is the township’s park. He said he and Councilman Jim Byrnes, whose ward includes that area, has been advocating for the county to begin the rebuild of its park, which has been mostly closed since Sandy.
After a series of setbacks in the permit and bidding process, the county broke ground this month and construction equipment has begun staging the area, still behind its chain link fence down Brennan Concourse.
Former AT&T Site
The Good Luck Point landmark, the old AT&T building, will eventually be torn down as the structure was deemed unsafe. Nearby, many of the several hundred historic poles that made up the radio transmission and telecommunications system will also be removed, through a separate project under the auspices of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife department project as the parcel is in the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
This December, the township announced it had secured a grant to help figure out the process of demolishing the building in order to turn it into a passive recreation spot for bird watching and other activities.
Another county initiative within Berkeley’s borders is the county’s purchase of the old Pulverizing Tract for open space preservation. Announced last year by Ocean County Freeholders, the process is now in securing easements needed to turn the former mining operation into a preserve under the county park system.
Plus, the purchase of the property could mean creating an extension for Western Boulevard, officials said.
Frederick Boulevard/Route 9
Another ongoing issue is pedestrian safety at Route 9 and Frederick Boulevard. The site of vehicles not stopping for pedestrians in the crosswalk, with deadly results, it is also an intersection where local officials are hoping the state Department of Transportation will approve new signage.
Earlier this year, the township announced it had set aside its portion of the funding to pay for a study as to what those improvements should be, and received word from the state it would complete a study.
Beginning in November, township police have also been holding unannounced enforcement details at the intersection, using plainclothes officers as pedestrian decoys. If drivers fail to yield, they could face ticketing by an officer up the road. The enforcement details are paid through a grant the township secured.
And finally, the Army Corps of Engineers has announced that they expected to award a contract for the beach and dune replenishment project for the barrier island. The Corps received three bids for the project which ranged from $128,820,433 to $178,416,600.
Work on the long-awaited project, which will create 25-foot tall dunes and 200-foot-wide beaches from the Manasquan Inlet to South Seaside Park, is expected to begin in the spring of 2017.
‑‑Judy Smestad-Nunn contributed to this article.