Surrounded by heavy equipment and the sounds associated with it, Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. took a recent tour of the Berkeley Island County Park redevelopment project to see firsthand the progress being made at the popular county park site.
“We are well on our way with the rebuilding of this park,” Bartlett said. “We look forward to the anticipated completion next spring. We know many residents and visitors are looking forward to the day they can again access this beautiful county park facility on Barnegat Bay.”
The redevelopment of the park comes with a host of new and exciting features that will be enjoyed by county residents and visitors for years to come.
Bartlett highlighted the importance of the living shoreline which is being implemented at the park. A living shoreline is being installed on the south side of the park, and shoreline protection has been fitted on the north side.
“The living shoreline is a new environmental feature that will help to ensure that erosion will no longer be a big problem at the park,” he said. “With its location on Barnegat Bay we are pleased to be a pilot program for shoreline protection.”
Ocean County will build the shoreline back to the 1977 shoreline location using stones and indigenous plants. The living shoreline will help knock down waves that can cause erosion and still allow for a tidal exchange.
The County worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Steven’s Institute of Technology and the Army Corps of Engineers in developing the living shoreline which is almost complete.
“We are getting all the in-water work completed now including new bulkheading,” said Bartlett as he viewed the large rocks, pilings and other materials being placed at various areas of the park.
“This park site is very important to our residents,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. “When it’s completed it will be a completely redeveloped site protecting against future storms. Our citizens will be able to enjoy it for years to come.”
Berkeley Island County Park also will be home to the first county-run splash park.
According to Bartlett a new playground including the splash pad will be a fun, new dimension to the park and will provide a great opportunity for children to play and cool off during the summer months.
Bartlett traveled to Philadelphia to see firsthand how the splash pad operates and whether it would be a good fit for an Ocean County park.
“I was very impressed with what I saw,” he said. “It received great use. The children that were running through it really enjoyed it and it was a very nice feature.”
Like other Ocean County park facilities, Berkeley Island County Park was devastated by Superstorm Sandy five years ago.
As a direct result of Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012, the popular Berkeley Island County Park sustained catastrophic damage to its infrastructure and many of its amenities. The south shore suffered a great loss of shoreline and eroded severely into the parking lot and part of the entrance road was lost. Prior to the storm the south shoreline consisted of a wetland edge of marsh grasses and shrubs, beach areas and upland trees.
In addition to the damage from Superstorm Sandy, the park experienced significant long term erosion to the shoreline and damage to both the bulkhead and armor mat due to its location on the Barnegat Bay resulting in the difficult decision to temporarily close the park to the public.
“We all experienced great losses in Ocean County as a result of Superstorm Sandy,” Bartlett said. “In our ongoing effort to put back the pieces I am pleased to announce that real progress is being made in the rebuilding of this park.
“My colleagues and I on the Board of Freeholders understand that parks are of great importance for the community and a necessity for the health, well-being and enjoyment of our residents, families and friends,” he said. “The loss of Berkeley Island County Park five years ago affected many residents throughout Ocean County. When it’s done it will be an improved facility with new enhancements that can be enjoyed by all.”
Engineers from T&M Associates and Barlo & Associates designed the park redevelopment and buildings, strengthening them to withstand future storms.
All new infrastructures, a new parking area with ADA accommodations and improved lighting for easy access are just some of the features that improve the function, aesthetics and recreational opportunities available at this 25-acre park at Brennan Concourse.
When the work is complete, the main areas of the park will include repairs to the heavily damaged armor mat along the eastern side, new bulk heading along the northern and western sides, new accessible paths to enjoy walking and biking.
To enhance the aesthetic beauty of the park, landscaping will be done with all native seaside plants.
Construction of larger restroom facilities to accommodate patrons as well as a new pavilion to accommodate picnickers is well underway. Two new shade structures with benches will be constructed to give visitors an opportunity to sit and take in the spectacular views Berkeley Island County Park has to offer.
“It takes a great deal of time to rebuild a park like this and to do it right,” Bartlett said. “We first had to navigate the permitting process and get everything in place in order to start the work. Of course we are also up against the weather. We are confident the park will be open to the public in the late spring of next year.”
Ocean County expects about $1.2 million reimbursement for the work from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and about $200,000 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Additional funding may be provided by FEMA from mitigation funds.