robards-park1An informal committee met at the former Charles Williams estate Monday to discuss its future. (Photos by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)


It’s a simple plan, with details yet to be worked out through a process that will carry through the biting days of fall and winter. But once the shoreline has thawed, Fair Haven officials are intent on having a beachfront park that gives locals something to be proud of.

At its second meeting for what is expected to be called Robards Park, at the site of the former Charles Williams estate on DeNormandie Avenue, borough leaders laid out a basic vision for the two-thirds-of-an-acre parcel that hugs the Navesink River. It’s going to be a passive park, with as much of its native, natural features retained as possible, said Mayor Mike Halfacre.

But to make that happen, there are some points that need to be marked off the to-do list, and will happen within the next month, he said.

robards-parkAbandoned boats have already been cleared of the beach on the river side of the property. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

Among the priorities is an inventory of the tree and plant life on the property. Halfacre wants to keep most of it, but a pending demolition of the historic house, which is owned by the Robards family — a bloodline that traces back to the days of slavery — will force a bit of uprooting. The property is dotted with thick, tall oak trees and a collection of native plant life that many see as an asset.

“It feels very enclosed in here, and it feels very cozy,” said Pim Van Hemmen, who lives just a few houses down from the property. “The more you clear out of here, you lose that.”

Present at Monday afternoon’s meeting at the property was Rich Pillar, a Monmouth County land architect, who will help take stock of what species are healthy and which the borough could stand to lose. He, though, needs to know exactly what the borough anticipates for the location.

“There’s no program for this site yet,” said Pillar. “We don’t know which direction we’re going in.”

In some ways, neither do Fair Haven officials. The property, although it was purchased for $1.2 million last year, still hasn’t been closed on by Fair Haven. A title company is working to square away more than 150 years of ownership changes, but a closing date will be set by the end of next month, Halfacre said.

Before then, a decision must be made about parking. At this point, no officials appear inclined to give the public, except for handicapped users, an opportunity to park near the site and disrupt the natural vibe of the area. Halfacre has proposed two handicapped spots, either on the property or on the street, and possibly a space large enough for cars to turn around.

Borough Engineer Rich Gardella is tasked with drawing up the different options.

“The further away you keep the cars from the river the better, I think,” Van Hemmen said.

The consensus among the committee — which is an informal one — is that less is better. They aren’t hot on doing more than installing a couple benches, a sign and maybe a plaque or two recognizing the history of the piece of land. The idea of putting in a staircase, on the bank that leads to the beach area, is a turn-off.

“My goal is to leave as much in place as possible,” Halfacre said.

The next meeting will take place at 6p, September 27 at borough hall. Halfacre said if the town hasn’t closed on the property by then, it will have a date to.

The removal of an oil tank a couple weeks ago came out with no problems, Halfacre said. That clears the way for — aside from the current title issue — a smooth property transfer, he said.