SicilianoEmployees of Siciliano Landscape prepare the Maple Avenue lot for grass seed Wednesday.

Just nine months ago, a quarter-acre parcel of Red Bank-owned land on the Navesink River appeared headed toward the auction block to provide cash for tax relief.

Cindy Burnham of Fair Haven led a protest movement that stopped the effort cold, arguing that the lot, at the foot of Maple Avenue, was the only place in town where someone could easily touch the water.

Then she set out to preserve the property from future development and have it turned into a launch area for canoeists and kayakers, as well as a nature area.

The problem, though, was that several decades worth of building debris had been dumped on the site, leaving a large mound that blocked the view of the river to anyone standing in the disused municipal parking lot on the parcel.

One might have been forgiven for thinking that Burnham had just embarked on a long, bureaucratic journey, one requiring a slog through the arcane wilds of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

BurnhamsicilianoKaren Siciliano, right, and Cindy Burnham at the site of what Burnham hopes will be a kayak and canoe launch next spring.

But no — or not thus far, at least.

In the space of less than two weeks, a period that included the Thanksgiving holiday, Burnham announced at a borough council meeting that the DEP has classified the parcel as Open Space, meaning it’s protected from sale and development; had the mound removed; had the site graded and planted with grass seed; and secured commitments for the donation of labor and materials to finish the site off in the spring.

In the midst of this, Burnham took off for Florida for a short Thanksgiving getaway. She returned last weekend to find that Councilman Art Murphy had gotten the borough public works department to pull out tree stumps and chunks of concrete, and that Billy Black of Kudos Enterprises in Navesink had fulfilled his promise to excavate and remove the mounds with a backhoe.

“I am giddy with glee,” Burnham told redbankgreen when we met her at the site this week.

Also fueling her euphoria:

• Black’s $2,300 fee was covered by a $2,500 donation she solicited from Hovnanian Enterprises, which has its headquarters just up the hill from the lot — and a good number of office windows looking out onto it.

• Karen Siciliano, third-generation owner of
Siciliano Landscape Co. in Red Bank and professed “water rat,” lent a crew to rake out the lot above the high-tide line and plant grass seed. She plans to come back in the spring to lay a path of pea gravel from the parking lot nearly to the river.

• Rysers Landscape Supply in Little Silver has said it will donate two tons of pea gravel for the effort, Burnham says.

Siciliano, a kayaker who lives on the water in Long Branch, tells redbankgreen that she was inspired to donate her company’s time and materials after reading about Burnham’s efforts.

“Our company has been in Red Bank for 73 years, and I had no awareness that this lot was intended to be a river access point” for the public, she said.

Now, Burnham hopes to have the site cleaned up and ready for use as a launch in the spring. “We want to keep it as natural and open as possible,” she said.

And she’s planning to ask the borough to consider naming the site “River Cove Park.” It’s identified on deeds as River Cove, she says.

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