RED BANK GARDEN PLAN NEEDS WATERING

A narrow borough-owned lot with a disused pumping station on it needs water access before it can be transformed into a community garden, town officials say. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

The battle over a proposed Red Bank community garden abated Wednesday night when its main proponent appeared to accept to an offer of a vacant East Side lot as its location.

Now, it’s just a matter of finding water.

Led by garden organizer Cindy Burnham, garden backers came away from a March 28 borough council meeting scratching their heads over the governing body’s latest in a yearlong series of rejections of their request for a pilot plot on land adjoining the public library parcel, on West Front Street overlooking the Navesink River.

Though the gardeners say the location is ideal – wide-open, underutilized and centrally located – they’ve encountered persistent opposition. Elected officials and members of the town administration have raised questions about the potential need for state Department of Environmental Protection permits, parking, and the dedication of prime riverfront property to the use of a select few residents, among other objections.

At that meeting, council members Kathy Horgan and Ed Zipprich suggested the gardeners instead break ground on a town-owned lot on Marion Street, just a few steps west of Eastside Park, and the site of a disused pumping station.

At the latest meeting, Wednesday night, Burnham questioned the availability of water at the Marion Street lot.

Public works director Gary Watson said he would look into the feasibility of a metered water hookup. Zipprich said he was also looking into whether a pumphouse on the property might be outfitted with gutters and a rain barrel for supplementary water.

Officials flatly rejected Burnham’s suggestion of allowing a single gardener to have key-controlled access to a nearby fire hydrant to water the garden twice a week.

Burnham also asked if a strip of broken asphalt might be removed, and said a soil sample had been taken to test for contamination of the site.

But for the first time, she signaled that the fight over the location was lost.

“We’re going to take it, but we don’t feel this is the appropriate location by any means,” said Burnham, who lives in Fair Haven and owns property in Red Bank. And when she began revisiting her frustration over the council’s rejection of the West Front Street site, Councilwoman Sharon Lee cut her off with, “Thank you, Cindy,” and Burnham took a seat.

Afterward, though, Burnham fumed that the water issue, and thus the start of planting, was unresolved, and that she would continue to press the council.

“Sombody has to be the heavy, somebody has to be the bitch,” she told redbankgreen.

The site is bounded on either side by residences, and the owner of one, Cecilia Davis, spoke against the proposal, citing concerns about the security of her home.