RED BANK: SPRAYGROUND RETURNS

Critics contend the sprayground would be built in an environmentally sensitive wetland.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

HOT-TOPIC_03A proposed children’s “sprayground” installation that environmentalists say would encroach on wetlands and a bald-eagle foraging area could get a double green light from the Red Bank borough council Wednesday night.

A resolution authorizing the town’s engineering contractor, T&M Associates, to design improvements at Bellhaven Nature Area, at the Swimming River end of Locust Avenue, is on the governing body’s agenda. So is a final vote on a $2.2 million capital improvements bond that budgets $600,000 for the facility. Here’s the resolution RB 14-114; and here’s the ordinance: rb 2014-8

A sprayground enables kids to play on a rubberized surface among continual sprays of water from fixed tubing. There’s one in Dorbrook Park in Colts Neck, operated by the Monmouth County Parks System, and one in Long Branch, at the eastern end of Broadway.

Red Bank secured partial funding for the project in late 2012 in the form of a $239,000 grant from the Monmouth County Open Spaces Program.

The Bellhaven project won praise from West Side parents frustrated by a lack of play areas for children when it was proposed almost three years ago.

But it shocked environmental advocates, who said the plan clashed with the ideals advanced in 2003, when the Bellhaven Nature Preserve, abutting then-new condos, was set aside. Members of the advisory Environmental Commission said a sprayground would impair the area’s ability to absorb floodwater and damage the bald eagles’ foraging habitat.

Environmental activist Kathleen Gasienica, an official at the American Littoral Society who lives in the condos next to the preserve, tells redbankgreen that she’ll be present Wednesday night to object to the resolution and ordinance.

“The council is just bulldozing ahead with this project without doing adequate research on the issue,” she said in an email.

Here’s the full agenda: RB Council agenda 040914