RED BANK: PLAN FOR NEW PARK IN THE WORKS

The former landfill at West Sunset Avenue, as seen in 2014. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Red Bank officials took another step toward the creation of a long-anticipated new park on the site of the former landfill and incinerator this week.

They also got some promises of help.

Then-borough Engineer Christine Ballard of T&M Associates discussing contamination issues at the site of the planned park in July 2014. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

At its semimonthly meeting Wednesday, the borough council authorized a $47,000 contract with T&M Associates of Middletown to develop a “remedial action plan” for the 8.6-acre site, which adjoins the Swimming River.  

T&M was the borough’s full-time engineering consultant until two years ago, and was given the park contract because of its extensive earlier work on the project, said Mayor Pasquale Menna.

The site, accessed via the western terminus of West Sunset Avenue, is the largest undeveloped tract of land in the borough. It served as the town dump and garbage-burning facility from around 1930 to 1984. A dormant incinerator on the site was demolished in 2009, a year after the borough initiated efforts to turn the site into parkland.

In July, 2014, at a presentation on toxic materials found at the site, then-Engineer Christine Ballard of T&M told residents and officials that completion of the park was probably five-to-ten years off because of remediation that had to be completed to make it safe.

Treatment could include a simple three-foot-deep cap of clean soil, or a far more expensive layer of clay overlaid with that much clean fill, she said at the time.

The testing phase, which cost $700,000, was fully paid for by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The DEP will also reimburse the town for the cost of T&M’s remediation plan, Menna said.

“We have 100-percent funding to clean up the site,” Menna said.

As part of what he said was a long process dictated by the DEP, the town is now turning its attention to the question of what amenities the park might include, said Councilman Erik Yngstrom, liaison to the Parks and Rec Committee.

That was one topic of a Parks and Rec Committee meeting earlier this week, but there will be “plenty more opportunities” for the public to weigh in on what might be done with the site, he said.

“In the next few weeks and months, we’ll be trying to get community input as to a vision,” Menna said. “The clarion call is to go out to the community.”

Bill Kastning, executive director of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation, told the council the nonprofit wants to lend a hand, and is “willing to facilitate funding,” much as it did in the creation of Springwood Avenue Park, a 1.3-acre park that opened last summer on Asbury Park’s West Side, which also had a dearth of parkland.

The foundation has also been instrumental in the creation of the Swimming River Park, formerly known as Chris’ Landing, on West Front Street in the River Plaza section of Middletown.

“We would like to offer our services to facilitate community involvement,” Kastning said.

“Your offer is warmly accepted,” said Menna.

An offer of help was also proffered by Pilgrim Baptist Church’s pastor, Reverend Terrence Porter, who chairs the Red Bank Affordable Housing Corporation.

As “community wellness” is part of the coalition’s mission, he said the organization, which developed the 36-unit Cedar Crossing homes, would “work with our resources through the state to help with financing.”