By Chris Rotolo |
HIGHLANDS – Water from the Sandy Hook Bay rushes into the channel that spans the length of Snug Harbor Park while a cool breeze flows around the Highlands Community Center off one of the borough’s largest beachfronts.
It would be a great setting for a tennis match or a pick-up basketball game between neighbors, but in their current state, the courts at Snug Harbor Park are in no condition to host this type of friendly competition.
According to borough administrator Kim Gonzales, the time has come to transform these facilities into those the Highlands community can take pride in.
“This town has been through a lot and I think each new storm we get brings the town’s morale down a little bit,” Gonzales said during a Sept. 24 interview with The Two River Times at Snug Harbor Park, referencing both the structural and emotional damage caused by Hurricane Irene, Super Storm Sandy and subsequent severe weather events.
“We’re really hoping the grant application is accepted and approved, because the residents, especially the kids, deserve to have a park they can be proud of.”
The borough took official action to participate in the Monmouth County Municipal Open Space Grant Program at the governing body’s Sept. 5 meeting. This is a matching grant application, meaning that by entering the program, the borough has agreed to match the monetary amount granted by the county.
Though the council is unable to estimate the total cost of the work at this early juncture, Gonzales said the borough will apply for a $300,000 grant, the largest amount possible.
The scope of the project does not entail wholesale alterations, but rather improvements to the existing infrastructure, most notably the resurfacing of on-site tennis and basketball courts.
Originally the courts were merely rugged a concrete surface, but due to damages from storms and flood waters, they have since been covered with outdoor Sports Tiles.
These 12-by-12-inch perforated tiles of polypropylene plastic have 16 tabs that lock together like puzzle pieces with adjacent tiles, creating a more accommodating playing surface.
In settings with less brutal climate and weather patterns than the Bayshore, these tiles only come with a five-year warranty.
Since their installation these tiles have endured natural weathering and severe flooding from nearby Sandy Hook Bay waters, which often rise out of the bulk-headed channel that runs adjacent to the Snug Harbor Park property, not to mention the damage delivered by both Irene and Sandy.
“If you were to pull these tiles up you would see the damage is more extensive than what’s seen on the surface right now, because the previous surface absorbed the flood water (from Irene and Sandy),” Gonzales said. “Our vision is to have the entire area redone and completely resurfaced.”
The amount of use and exposure to harsh conditions have caused collections of tiles to bubble up at certain locations on the courts, while other single tiles have had chunks torn away by relentless weather incidents and acts of vandalism. Other perforated tiles have extensive weed growth jutting up through them to the surface.
“We chose this surface material to cover up the concrete because it was durable and supposed to be good on the knees. But as you can see, things grow into it and it’s just not meant to endure the flooding we experience down here,” Gonzales added. “It’s time for an upgrade.”
As it currently stands, Gonzales said there are no plans to touch the skate park that rests just beyond the tennis and basketball courts, nor the small, gravel public parking lot that exits onto Bay Avenue.
However, if the grant is awarded, there are plans to tie the courts into the borough’s summer camp activities and recreation department offerings by establishing tennis, basketball and other instructional clinics for local athletes of all ages, which could start as soon as spring 2019 if all goes according to plan.
“Right now we really don’t offer anything on these courts, and it’s a shame,” Gonzales said. “Part of our job is to work to create a positive influence for children in town by offering programming to them. We want people to be proud of what they come home to during the week and what they come out to on weekends.”
During its Sept. 20 meeting, the Borough Council authorized a resolution to award a contract for professional services to CME Associates. The total estimated fee for services is $24,800.
The engineering firm will prepare Highlands’ grant application to Monmouth County and prepare a topographic and location survey of the existing facility to be used as a base map for the anticipated improvements. CME will also formulate a concept plan to include recreational amenities and will complete a preliminary construction cost estimate to ensure the proposed improvements are in line with the borough’s anticipated budget.
This article was first published in the Sept. 27 – Oct. 3, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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