Environmental panel to have say in park design

Staff Writer

The designs for Bellhaven, a park planned for the west side of the borough, have been put in the hands of the Red Bank Environmental Commission (EC).

In keeping with the educational and environmental focus of the park, which is located at the foot of Locust Avenue along the Swimming River, Councilwoman and Parks and Recreation Committee liaison Linda Schwabenbauer said the borough’s Parks and Recreation Committee would help design plans.

“The goal this time around is to start here,” said Schwabenbauer at the Dec. 8 EC meeting.

Members of the Red Bank Environmental Commission were relieved that they would have a say in the design plans for the park.

“We’ve seen so far what T&M [the borough’s engineering firm] has given to us as far as what a proposal would be, and it’s never been anything that has jibed with what we thought would work,” said Frank Corrado, a member of the EC, who added that within the commission there are members who have design experience.

“I think now, a main component here is, which we want to be a part of, is the general design and direction of where to go. It’s no longer going to be ‘What is T&M going to give us?’ It’s, ‘This is an environmentally sensitive area, here’s something that is a pre-approved plan by the Environmental Commission’,” said Corrado, who expressed relief that the commission would have a say in the project.

Schwabenbauer responded to Corrado’s comments.

“I think that, if the EC had been involved at the outset last time around, we could have avoided so much of this debacle,” Schwabenbauer said, referring to criticism over a proposed water feature in the original proposal.

Bellhaven was to be funded through a $250,000 matching grant from Monmouth County. The original plans in the grant proposal called for playground equipment and a water feature. According to Schwabenbauer, at a meeting among representatives from the DEP, the borough’s engineering firm, and a representative from the EC, the group had a “brain wave” to take the $150,000 that had originally been slated for the construction of the water feature and do something “radically different.”

“The thing is, we had this brain wave, too late, to take advantage of the existing grant, and they won’t give us an extension,” said Schwabenbauer.

Due to new plans for the park being different from those in the original grant proposal, Schwabenbauer said she would write a letter to the grant commission to rescind the proposal.

“We are voluntarily allowing the grant to lapse because we have decided that a significant change to the plans would be more appropriate given the wants and needs of the community,” she said.

The chances of the borough being considered for the grant again after they let it lapse, would not be bad, Schwabenbauer said.

“When I explained to him, that we had this compelling reason and what we wanted to do was to integrate the environment and provide an access point into a nature preserve to allow children and adults of the community to really go in and experience it without disturbing it, it’s really a unique opportunity. … The guy I spoke with at the Monmouth Open Space Grant Committee understood that, and he said if you can sell it with that much passion, the odds are really good,” she said.

According to Schwabenbauer, the deadline for the grant is September 2016.

Contact Michael Nunes at mnunes@gmnews.com.