LITTLE SILVER MEMORIAL SPRINGS TO LIFE

Memorial Park was built on a site where a drive-thru bank was once proposed. (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

When the residents of Little Silver conclude their planned Memorial Day parade next Monday, they’ll wind it up at a parcel of land on Prospect Avenue that’s a far cry from the bank that was contemplated for the site more than a dozen years ago.

After more than two years of planning and construction, Little Silver Memorial Park has been transformed into a lush stretch of green, filled with mini Japanese maples and gravel foot paths.

“Residents were pretty adamant about not wanting another commercial, asphalt space,” said Linda Goff, chairperson for the borough Shade Tree Commission of Little Silver. “So that’s where we came in. We really wanted to make it a natural place where people would feel comfortable coming in to walk or sit and relax.”

The borough acquired the two-acre property, at the corner of Willow Drive, for $380,000 in 2002, several years after neighbor opposition led to a plan for a Mainstay Savings & Loan Commerce Bank branch to be rejected by town planners.

With a limited budget, the STC relied heavily on volunteer support, including help from the Little Silver Garden Club, to fill the park with individual garden plots, including a butterfly garden, all of which were designed and planted by local residents.

Goff said their engineer, Greg Blash, helped them research and design – and re-design – what, where, and how to plant. “Everything was chosen carefully, because we wanted native plantings that would attract wildlife and were also self-sustaining. Almost everything here produces seeds, berries or shelter.”

The gardens all surround the flag, clock, and center reflecting pool which offers a circular cement walkway and donated benches to rest on. The stone war memorials that used to reside at borough hall can now be found here.

Although the park is not quite finished, it’s already seen a bit of foot traffic. Residents are cutting through to do their shopping and some are even walking their dogs, activities Goff said the STC did not want to restrict.

“We really want to promote the community spirit and have it be a place of sanctuary and nature, open to everyone,” she said.

As more trees and benches are added, Goff said the park will soon be ready for its dedication and grand opening.

“We were able to do this because of an open space county grant, so the county will organize one of those nice ceremonies with the big check,” she said.

Ultimately, Goff would like to see the park used for community events.

“My dream is to see this become an exhibition space,” she said. “We’ll be having Memorial Day services here. Last year was our first 9/11 memorial service, which was a beautiful candlelight vigil.”

Concerts, movies, and art shows among the flowers are also contemplated.

“I think that’s the idea that all of us have – to promote our community and our local talent,” said Goff. “So I hope things like that will happen.”