The playground-to-be at Sea Bright’s municipal beach. (Photo by Wil Fulton. Click to enlarge)


The Sandy Ground Project Memorial Playground in Sea Bright, built to honor and pay tribute to the victims of the horrific Newtown School shootings, has broken ground, but is still more than a month away from being completed, according to borough Recreation Director Kathy Morris.

The Foundation to Save the Jersey Shore and the New Jersey Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association are spearheading a project called “The Sandy Ground Project: Where Angels Play” that aims to create 26 memorial playgrounds across the state, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the December school slaughter. Sea Bright is the first town to receive a memorial playground, this one dedicated to Ann Marie Murphy, a special education teacher who lost her life in the shooting.

The donated playground is in the process of being completed on a plot of sand at the public beach, but will remain closed to the public unitl Sea Bright cleans up and “beautifies” the area, according to Morris, who said a new ribbon-cutting date has been set for April 17.

“We’re still in the planning stages, and with everything going on, it’s going to take us a little while to get everything where it needs to be,” Morris said. “ We plan on adding benches to the playground and beautifying the area overall. The KDM Foundation is donating a portion of their funds raised from the Keith Mcheffey Fun Run, and we’re still looking for donations.”

Other town officials said they wer touched by the borough’s selection as a location for the first playground, particularly in light of the respective tragedies each area – Newtown and Sea Bright – faced at the tail-end of 2012.

“It’s a tremendous honor for this town,” Mayor Dina Long told redbankgreen. “It’s kind of ironic that it’s going to be so close to Sandy Hook, and that the first Sandy Ground playground will literally be on sandy ground. Overall I’d have to describe it simply as a tremendous honor.”

“Both towns experienced devastation, but looking at what happened in Newtown helps put what happened here in Sea Bright in perspective. Even though our town is hurting and times are tough, something like a tribute to Ann Marie Murphy reminds us that all we lost were our things, and thankfully no one from Sea Bright lost their lives,” she added.

“There is definitely a connection there,” said Councilwoman Peggy Bills, liaison to the recreation department. “There is a mutual sadness and heartbreak both towns shared in a short period of time. We’re very honored to have this park here: we needed a new park for the kids to come back to, and this is a meaningful addition to the town. Especially because it’s dedicated to Ann Marie Murphy, who spent her life helping and educating kids. It’s a step in the rebuilding process for us, and a meaningful tribute to Newtown.”

According to a press release by STJS, “the playgrounds built in the shore area will provide an outlet for children and families who have endured hardship as a result of Sandy. Sea Bright was chosen for the first playground location because of the level of devastation brought by Sandy and the amount of time spent there by FMBA members cleaning up the aftermath.”

“This playground will stand as a reminder that violence against children is deplorable,” the press release went on to say. “It will serve as a symbol of hope and resilience for the community.”

“We feel good about being able to honor another town’s losses as we continue to rebuild our own town, and start our own new beginning,” Bills said. “And even if the kids don’t fully grasp what the park means, the parents will know, and that will make everyone cherish it even more.”