PRIVATE OPERATORS EYE RED BANK COURTS

rb tennis ct 2 091113The clay courts overlooking the Navesink River at Marine Park, closed since Hurricane Sandy, could go under private management. The adjacent lavatories, meantime, are to be demolished and replaced with new facilities on higher ground. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

A year after Hurricane Sandy sent the Navesink River surging, Red Bank’s cherished red-clay tennis courts at Marine Park remain closed and weed-strewn, to the heartbreak of players.

“They’re a treasure to Red Bank,” said Dan Ciaglia, who says he’s played at the courts “three, four, five times a week in the summer for the past 30 years.”

Since Sandy, Ciaglia said, he’s played various hard courts, but considers the clay courts special not only for the surface and location, but for “the little community of people” who play there.

Now, as borough officials plan to relocate adjacent lavatories to higher ground in the park, they’re also sorting through informal proposals that could put the courts under private management.

Borough Administrator Stanley Sickels tells redbankgreen town officials have had “a bunch of different discussions” with vendors who operate tennis facilities and one with a private individual about the possibility of a public-private partnership.

“We’re researching our options,” said Sickels.

Damage claims to park facilities, including the lavatories and a sewer pump station, have been filed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but Sickels said he didn’t know if any insurance reimbursement would be coming through for the courts.

Meantime, the borough council has approved an application for a Monmouth County Open Space Grant that would cover up to half the $375,000 cost of demolishing the existing restrooms, which also remain out of service, and rebuilding them on the site of long-disused shuffleboard courts up the hill.

The ball is still in the air for the courts themselves, though. They’ve been a publicly-owned fixture of the park for 72 years. [Check out this redbankgreen feature on the courts from 2007.]

Sickels said none of the various proposals have reached the stage of a formal proposal, and the objective is not necessarily to put the courts into private hands.

“There’s nothing in writing that we can even ask the council to consider,” he said.”We’ve looked at some models in other towns, and we’ve had some private conversations.

“We’re looking at various options not only to repair, but improve it, maybe come up with a different method of operating it to maximize use,” he said.

Might the courts be out of commission for 2014?

“I’m not even going to speculate,” Sickels said. “Maybe we get out claim paid and we just put it back. I can’t say one way or another.”