BRICK – The fifth township park to have a complete overhaul is finished and is now open for the business of having fun.
Hank Waltonowski Park, AKA Birchwood Park, located on Ashwood Drive in the neighborhood behind the Warren H. Wolf Elementary School, was the most embarrassing park in terms of the way it looked, said Mayor John G. Ducey during a recent council meeting.
Ducey cut the ribbon during a ceremony held at the park on the afternoon of Nov. 2. The ribbon-cutting was also attended by township officials and many of the preschool students from Warren H. Wolf Elementary School.
The improved 4.2-acre park has two separate playground areas (designed by Ben Shaffer Recreation, Inc.) for children aged 2-5 and 5-12; two basketball courts; a softball/baseball field; a gazebo and a walking trail.
The park was named after a township Department of Public Works employee who was killed in a work accident in 1996.
Hank Waltonowski’s family, including his son Mark, attended the ribbon-cutting.
“We’ve been coming to the park for years, it’s nice to see all the kids playing today. Everything is so bright and clean,” he said.
“My dad was a firm believer in parks and letting kids have fun. He was always for the youth of Brick,” he said.
Family friend Ray Dempsey said the condition of the park had been “bad to say the least…it’s about time we redid it.”
The cost of renovating the park was $1,228,513, which was partly funded through a $3,273,595 grant that would also help to pay for improvements to Bernie Cook Park and Bayside Park, said Township Grant Writer Tara Paxton.
Birchwood Park resident Amanda Brumett’s daughter, Addison, 4, couldn’t wait to play on the swings after the ceremony.
“It’s an amazing transformation. The park was so bad and so rundown that the equipment was dangerous,” Brumett said.
“When my son (Cole, 6) plays baseball, Addison and I just walk the field because there was nothing else to do. The equipment was all boarded together,” she said.
During his comments, Ducey said that one of his favorite things about being mayor is to be able to make a positive impact on the community by improving parks and public areas.
“These improved parks make such a difference in their neighborhoods,” he said. “When you can take a park that has been ignored for decades and create a safe, modern and beautiful park and playground, it changes the entire neighborhood. You can see it on the faces of the people enjoying the new parks.”
The renovated park was designed by CME Associates and built by Precise Construction of Freehold, who completed it on time, Ducey said.
The next park to be renovated is the Bernard J. Cooke Park in the Parkway Pines residential area, followed by Bayside Park on the barrier island and Cedar Bridge Manor Park.
Recently completed parks include the playground at Windward Beach Park, Herbertsville (formerly Colorado) Park, Lake Riviera Park and Angela Hibbard Park in Shore Acres.