Img_5664A late-afternoon view of the former incinerator ash dump at the western end of Sunset Avenue.

They came, they saw, they conjured.

On a half-hour tour of the former municipal ash dump last night, members of the Red Bank Environmental Commission tried to imagine both the past and the future of the site.

Img_5659Environmental Commission chairman Lou DiMento, left, discusses site conditions with Public Works Director Gary Watson.

The huge mounds of incinerator waste that clotted the property for decades are gone, as are the mountains of dead leaves stored there seasonally in recent years prior to disposal.

Under the aegis of Public Works Director Gary Watson, the site’s been scrubbed clean, just as the recycling center next door has been turned into a well-ordered, revenue-generating enterprise.

Now, except for a storage trailer, an occasional patch of dumped asphalt or a stray golf ball, the property has been reclaimed by raw nature.

The visitors found chest-high flora filling acres of relatively flat ground trimmed by trees and vines that close the site off from adjoining neighborhoods and the Navesink River, just down a steep bluff. They stopped to look at deer tracks left in mud still caking over after last week’s rain.

So, what to do with it?

A waterfront plan drawn up by a consultant and released last month imagines three or four scenarios for the site.

But commission chairman Lou DiMento doesn’t see those ideas flying. They rely too much on public-private cooperation in creating access to the river, he says.

Then there’s the ongoing discussion, which came to the fore of borough business this month, about the possibility of creating a community center or recreation facility at the site.

But several commission members expressed concern about having ballfields at the site. Field turf means pesticides and fertililizers that end up in waterways, causing all sorts of environmental havoc.

There was some talk about leaving it passive, and maybe having a nature trail through the area.

The visit, though, wasn’t about making decisions. It was about giving commission members a look at property more familiar to waste haulers and generations of curious, fence-jumping kids.

“Red Bank is so built up with impervious surfaces that it’s nice to know that this is here,” member Laura Bagwell said afterward. She’d like to see as much of the natural quality preserved as possible.

“There’s great solace in it,” she said.

Email this story