By JOHN T. WARD
Red Bank’s Marine Park would lose its clay tennis courts to a parking lot in exchange for new green space under a concept plan informally adopted by the council Wednesday night.
The park, which fronts on the Navesink River, would also get a new formal entryway and a kayak launch under a plan developed by landscape architect Scott Scarfone of the Baltimore urban planning firm Kimley-Horn.
Scarfone unveiled the long-awaited plan in a presentation at the council’s monthly workshop meeting.
The debut followed two public sessions almost a year ago and an online survey that enabled residents and visitors to offer input. “We took all of that information in” and developed the plan with borough officials, as well as with the Environmental Commission and the Parks and Rec Committee, Scarfone said at the council’s monthly workshop meeting.
The result was a concept that will “simplify the park, make it better, make it more efficient and create more flexibility” in terms of programming public events, Scarfone told the audience.
The plan’s key recommendations include:
• Relocating the parking lot to the westerly area of the park, now the site of the tennis courts, which have sat unused since they were damaged by Hurricane Sandy more than six years ago.
The move would reduce the number of parking spots by “only” 14 or 15 spaces from the present 86, Scarfone said.
• In place of the existing lot would be added open green space, raised some two feet from its present elevation and rimmed by a “seat wall” to reduce impacts of tidal surges, Scarfone said.
The space could be used for outdoor concerts or seasonal attractions such as a portable ice rink or miniature golf, said Scarfone. A stage could be created alongside the horseshoe-shaped borough marina, he said.
• The existing playground would be relocated nearer the existing restrooms.
• A formal entry plaza would be created, perhaps with a water feature or veterans’ memorial, at the corner of Wharf Avenue and Union Street.
• A kayak launch just north of the existing sewer pump station, which would remain. A kayak storage or rental facility could be accommodated, Scarfone said.
• The existing promenade would be widened to accommodate service vehicles.
Detailed visuals of the plan can be viewed here.
“I think we all were in agreement that that was incredibly valuable real estate being right on the water,” Scarfone said of the current parking lot location.
Though the tennis courts proved to be a flashpoint three years ago, when several competing plans to change the park were in play, Scarfone said surveys and public hearings found the community not so passionate about saving the courts, which are a rarity because of their soft surface.
“The majority of people said that as long as we were able to provide some sort tennis facility in another park, that would be sufficient, and so that was our guiding principle,” Scarfone said.
The plan calls for saving most of the large sycamores in the park, though some other trees will be lost, he said.
Business Administrator Ziad Shehady said the plan “lessens the amount of fixed structures in the park and allows for more programs.”
The plan was received positively by elected officials as well as several audience members who spoke at the session.
Mayor Pasquale Menna said the proposal offers “management of the parking for park users instead of auxiliary users.” He also praised the plan for its “focus on access and focus on the river.”
Councilwoman Kathy Horgan said she liked that it had “loads of free space,” and that it put the playground near the restrooms, which would be convenient for parents.
Councilman Erik Yngstrom, who shepherded the concept development as liaison to the parks department, called the kayak launch a “great plus.”
“I like that it’s not too busy,” said Locust Avenue resident Ben Forest.
The plan is still several years away from realization. It first needs to be run by permitting agencies, including the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Scarfone said.
Nor were any cost estimates offered. Funding sources would have to be identified before construction could begin, Scarfone and others said.
Shehady said Scarfone would submit a written report that that the council would have to formally accept at a regular meeting to get the ball rolling.