BERKELEY – Holly Park has been without its flagship park for a decade.
The shore neighborhood is east of Route 9, north of Butler Boulevard and south of Eugene Furey Boulevard. Main Street stretches out to the Barnegat Bay. At the tip is a bit of land that was once a place for families to go. The Holly Park Beach Club used to have a small building before Superstorm Sandy wrecked it, carrying its roof into the marsh half a mile or so away.
Sandy was in 2012, and in the intervening years, the township has been trying to restore something for the residents there. A flagpole, an outline of bulkheading, and patches of beach grass cling to a slowly receding shoreline.
Berkeley officials have wanted to stabilize the area with bulkheading in the same footprint that it used to be. There has been talk of a tot lot, but nothing too intensive. A kayak launch would be welcome, but there would be no launch site for power boats.
The township recently received a denial letter from the State Department of Environmental Protection. The state does not agree with the town’s plans.
“They only want us to put bulkhead at the high water line near the flag pole,” Mayor Carmen Amato lamented. This would cut off quite a bit of land, ceding it to the bay, and restricting what the town can do with what property is left.
Now, the township will be appealing the DEP decision in Superior Court.
“The most frustrating part is our intention is to fix and repair, maybe put in a tot lot. The township received a Green Acres grant for $130,000, and the permits were denied by the DEP,” Amato said. “One division gives us money to build the park and the other one doesn’t allow it.”
Pat Sperber was one of several nearby residents who came out to recent Township Council meetings expressing sadness at the waste of a lovely recreational area with a lot of memories attached to it.
“I’m so upset at what happened to the beach. There are so many kids in Holly Park. Where do they go? I know you’re doing your best to help us,” she said to the governing body.
“We’re at the mercy of the DEP,” Amato replied.
Another resident, Maggie Lugo, said she was one of the people changing the flag on the flagpole. She wants someone from the DEP to come and talk to them so they can explain that what they want won’t impact the environment negatively. She has a petition with more than 100 signatures to get action on the park.
“There are families with long roots and neighbors with long memories who want it back to the way it was,” she said.
Richard Ryan, another local resident, thanked the town for taking care of the property and picking up garbage. He noted that every big storm causes more erosion. “The clock is ticking.”
He also warned that kayaking on the bay is more dangerous than in rivers and lakes, and expressed concern for the safety of people going into the bay without experience.
“All we want to do is clean it up the way it was,” Councilman James Byrnes said.