Red Bank residents came out in droves last week to air concerns about a playground and splash park proposed at the Bellhaven Nature Area on Locust Avenue.
Citing issues such as traffic, cost, safety, litter and the environment, several residents spoke out against the plan during the Aug. 13 meeting of the Red Bank Borough Council.
“I live on Locust Avenue, so I will be directly affected. And, as a taxpayer, I will be affected by any cost this incurs,” resident Laura Kremer said during the packed council meeting. “I am constantly picking up litter already, [off] the street, our lawns. People just go by and drop their cups, their straws, their bags of chips.
“There are going to be alcohol bottles there. This is a big deal. This isn’t just about little kids having a good time.”
Despite the outcry from the majority of residents in attendance, Borough Engineer Christine Ballard said the proposal would take an unused property alongside the Swimming River and turn it into a pocket park for residents of the borough’s west side.
“This site is proposing both passive and active recreation as a way of getting people to play and also sit and enjoy the views,” she said. “It is a very small park — this is not designed to be an attraction. It is meant to be something where local kids can come and cool off in the summertime.”
The proposal includes a splash pad; two playgrounds; a pathway; educational signs about the on-site wetlands; and the remediation and removal of invasive phragmites, which are said to be overrunning the nature area.
According to Ballard, the project is expected to cost approximately $500,000. A Monmouth County Open Space grant would cover $239,000 of the total cost, but the grant stipulates that the park must be completed by next May. The park was first proposed in 2011, but Ballard said Tropical Storm Irene and superstorm Sandy delayed the plans. She said the original conceptual plans have been scaled back, and the splash park is now 1,150 square feet — nearly 1,000 feet smaller than the original proposal.