Neighbors Of Proposed Park Worry About Traffic

Ridgeway Park Project Director Joseph Pirozek holds up a map showing the proposed layout of a future park within Manchester Township. Behind him is Ocean County Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mary Jane Bavais. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  MANCHESTER – Traffic was a big concern of residents at a forum regarding a proposed Ocean County park located at 3623 Ridgeway Road. The park will occupy land on both sides of Ridgeway Boulevard, spanning Ridgeway Road from Route 547 (South Hope Chapel Road) to the railroad tracks.

  The forum was held at the township branch of the Ocean County Library and hosted by Ocean County Parks Department/Ridgeway Project Director Joseph Pirozek and Ocean County Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mary Jane Bavais. They spoke to around 50 residents that evening who were seeking details on the project.

  Bavais explained that the forum would address two points, “the administrative transfer of park land from the township of Manchester to the county of Ocean and the change in purpose from preserved land to active recreation. Transcripts of this will be sent to the state of New Jersey. We’re here to listen to your comments.”

Township residents turned out for a special Green Acres forum concerning plans by Ocean County to create a new regional park in an area of Manchester Township. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  Pirozek gave a brief description of the property which runs “roughly 260 acres of which we plan to develop 30 acres so a small footprint based on Pinelands (Commission) rules. We are doing our wetland studies now for our permits for the Pinelands Commission.”

  Among the residents who posed questions was Frank Scancarella who lives in the Riverpointe 55+ Adult Community between Ridgeway Boulevard and South Chapel Road.

  He noted “there are over 1,000 residents, most over the age of 55, living at Riverpointe and the safety of these residents is at stake.”

  He previously expressed to The Manchester Times that “most of the residents are very active and do a lot of walking, running and bike riding. Many use Ridgeway Boulevard for this purpose. Ever since the County Maintenance Garage opened for commercial traffic a few years ago the number of cars and large trucks traveling at speeds well above the posted speed limit has made this road a death trap. There are no sidewalks or even a walking path on this road and the walkers/bikers are using the three-inch wide, at best, shoulder of the road to walk/bike/run on. It is just a matter of time before there is a catastrophic occurrence, either a serious injury or God forbid a death from being hit by a vehicle.”

  Scancarella also noted that “there are no street lights on this road and it is pitch black dark at night. There are numerous instances of cars drag racing on this street.”

  “To me this is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” he said during the forum. He also told The Manchester Times that he had reached out to the County Commissioners office “a few months ago regarding the possible installation of sidewalks/walking path and also the feasibility of installing solar powered street lights to the utility poles and was told this is a municipal road, not a county road and therefore I had to take it up with the town.”

  Scancarella said, “I have gotten nowhere with them either. It’s a municipal road traveling right through the middle of county property.”

Ocean County Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mary Jane Bavais holds a map as Ridgeway Park Project Director Joseph Pirozek shows park plans to residents. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  Jerry Potts was another Riverpointe resident who spoke. “My property backs up right to the woods. I’m wondering why the passive recreation area backs up to Ocean County where they maintain their trucks and so forth and the active part backs up to Riverpointe?”

  He explained, “the problem with that is that it will put a lot of pressure on the animals to come into our area. Plus I’m sure you’ll be putting rest rooms there that will draw the homeless in.”

  Present in the audience were Council President Joan Brush and Councilman James Vaccaro who brought up their recommendations for the project.

  Vaccaro asked about the possibility of adding a dog park which was initially proposed. “It would be an asset to the community,” he said.

  Resident Karen Pitzner said the addition of the dog park might be better than the inclusion of a spray park that would require water that would come from Manchester utilities.

  Jeff Heilerun asked if the park would run south of the Ridgeway branch or if it would extend to the other side of a brook. He also asked if the Pinelands Commission has approved it to which he was told that was in process and that it was in a natural reserve.

  “My concern is if this park goes through that none of the access to the park will be from Ridgeway Boulevard – it will only be from Ridgeway Road so there would be no incentive to take Ridgeway Boulevard to get to the park,” he added.

  Sandra Skowronski brought up an issue that would be repeated throughout the night which was entrance and exit to the park. “Hopefully it will only be accessible from Route 571 or 547 because traffic on Ridgeway Boulevard is very heavy with the Ocean County Garage and the cut through from Route 70 to 571.”

Ridgeway Project Director Joseph Pirozek and Ocean County Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Mary Jane Bavais listen to Manchester Township Council President Joan Brush (at podium). (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  Many attendees were not pleased to hear that Ridgeway Boulevard was the only entrance point planned for the park. Other residents expressed concerns about the potential for illegal dumping in the park. Still others brought up lighting and were told that as the park would close at dusk there would not be utility lights installed.

  Pirozek told the audience that endangered plant species had been discovered on the property and this played a role in where things were positioned in the plan. He brought out a map to show to the audience to explain the placement better.

  Numerous attendees said that the map should have been made available along with some explanatory information as a handout or present on a website in preparation for the night’s forum.

Ridgeway Project Director Joseph Pirozek and Ocean County Parks Assistant Director Mary Jane Bavais listen to Manchester Township Councilman James Vaccaro who is speaking from the podium recommending that a dog park be added to the park’s plan. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  Manchester Environmental Commissioner Karen Argenti invited the speakers to attend their September 27 Commission meeting as an added means to provide information to residents and those beyond Manchester.

  While some attendees voiced excitement for the addition of a new park facility in the western end of Ocean County, others questioned the need for it and whether a feasibility study had been made to determine if such a park would be well utilized.

  Resident Robert Arace noted that were the park not to go forward it would remain in its current state. He also questioned the timeline as to when Manchester Township and Ocean County began talks about the project which has been in the talking stages for a few years.