BERKELEY – It’s time. After what county officials said were delays with the bid process and state approvals, Berkeley Island County Park reconstruction began with some fanfare December 13.
A media press conference, complete with ceremonial first shovels full of dirt, marked the groundbreaking of the project, which will rebuild the county park since its destruction and shuttering after Superstorm Sandy.
From that storm, its ancillary buildings, picnic tables and other elements were washed away or destroyed. After reopening a small portion of the park for the height of previous summers, the Brennan Concourse site mostly stood behind chain link and orange safety fence, with a giant pile of fill growing weeds in its main parking lot. It remained completely closed all this year through summer.
But late November, Berkeley officials noted that the county began using an adjacent area as a staging area for construction equipment. With the December 13 announcement, construction officially begins on Berkeley Island County Park.
The bayfront park, enjoyed by families as a swimming, fishing and picnicking site, will now be improved with new bathroom building, playground and a spray park. It’s a type of splash pad with hoses and sprays to frolic in.
There’s also an emphasis on a living shoreline, using engineered breakwaters and shoals to create a more sustainable park, officials said previously.
The project comes in at approximately $8 million and is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
Freeholder John Bartlett, who recalled fond memories of the park, said he took a perfectionist’s view in helping to craft the details of what the park would look like.
“One of the great things about the park is the separate areas that different segments can come to the park to enjoy,” said Bartlett, who is the freeholder liaison to the parks department. Whether swimming, fishing, sunning or picnicking, the park provides lots of options, he said.
With the addition of a splash pad, the designs got some flack, Bartlett said. The county doesn’t have any such spray parks/splash pad water features at any of its other parks, meaning this would be the first in the county system. Bartlett said he hopes this feature at Berkeley Island will prove mighty popular and lead to splash pads at other facilities.
The press conference was attended by Freeholders Bartlett and Ginny Haines, as well as many township officials and the contracted engineer and construction staff, county officials and locals from the Berkeley Island neighborhood.
Mayor Carmen Amato spoke to the crowd and thanked the county for its support of the project, saying the county park was an asset to the area and getting it back in operation is something residents have long been waiting for.