red bank what's going on herered bank bellhavenAfter years of discussion, some of it quite heated, Red Bank’s Bellhaven Natural Area is about to get a makeover. 

red bank, bellhaven nature areaThe plan calls for a riverfront observation deck and picnic tables. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Work is slated to begin next week on the 1.25-acre wetland site, located at the western terminus of Locust Avenue, abutting the Swimming River, Business Administrator Ziad Shehady tells redbankgreen.

The plan calls for the construction of an observation deck overlooking the river, and the installation of picnic tables, information plaques and some playground equipment on the site, which is dense with phragmites.

According to Shehady, the contract for the work was awarded to Precise Construction following a bid of $197,065. The project is expected to be completed this year, he said.

The deck would allow for Americans with Disabilities Act access, and include “some sort of binoculars” to enable birdwatching, T&M Associates’ consulting engineer Christine Ballard told the borough council in February.

The scope of work is significantly scaled back from a proposal that called for a playground with a spray park component that sparked furious debate at packed council meetings in 2015.

After the spray component was scrapped, a $250,000 Monmouth County Open Spaces grant — which the borough was to have matched — had to be returned because the project no longer matched the one the county had approved. An attempt in 2017 year to win a second MCOS grant for the modified project failed.

Ballard said scaling back the project has reduced its projected cost by about $200,000.

The site is part of a foraging area for bald eagles.