By Chris Rotolo |
MONMOUTH BEACH – It’s been nearly two decades since borough playgrounds have been renovated but a project is now underway to give Griffin Street Park a state-of-the-art upgrade.
A $250,000 inclusive playground with new structures and an alternative surface to sand is in the works, thanks to a grassroots fundraising effort by residents that has won support from local and county government.
“For almost two years now, myself and a bunch of other moms from town have been pushing for a new playground,” said Courtney Wladyka, who spearheads Monmouth Beach’s Project Playground. “We started going to borough meetings. Then we were directed to the county parks commission and now we’ve finally made some progress.”
When Wladyka began bringing her toddlers to the park two years ago, weeds were sprouting up through the sandbox and the blacktop running track showed signs of fracturing and erosion from times when the Shrewsbury River overflowed.
Wladyka took note of the hard steel surfaces underneath landings by the slides and swings, questionable sections of rust on the jungle gym and the site’s lack of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“When I started talking to other moms about it they didn’t hold back,” Wladyka said. “Aside from all of those concerns, they also noticed a lot of garbage around the playground and told me how some of their kids have even gotten hurt playing there. So we started thinking about organizing a cleanup but we soon realized the problem was a lot bigger than that.”
After discussing the situation with town officials, Monmouth Beach submitted an application to the Monmouth County Park System, which administers the county Open Space Trust grants on behalf of the freeholders. It was approved and the borough was awarded $100,000 in 2017.
Borough Commissioner Dave Stickle said, “I know Courtney is working to help offset the remaining cost of the project with donations and we’re all hopeful that she’ll be able to match the grant. But whatever she isn’t able to raise, the town will be able to make up the difference,” he said.
Stickle said a plan for the final scope of the work will be formulated over the next couple of months and the signing of the grant agreement with Monmouth County is anticipated to follow in late July or August.
Once the agreement is signed the borough can then put the work out to bid.
“With the timeline we have in mind it may be a little ambitious but we’re hoping to have the work finished by the winter or early spring, so we can have it ready to go for the kids by next summer,” Stickle said. “This type of upgrade is absolutely needed in our community.”
Until ground is broken, Wladyka’s fundraising schedule is in full swing. She recently wrapped up a Monmouth Beach apparel and tote bag sale, in which all proceeds generated were donated to the project. Wladyka will continue to sell borough-branded apparel, totes and reusable straws this summer at the Little Monmouth Beach Club, the borough farmer’s market and the town’s Church of the Precious Blood.
The reusable straws are especially appropriate for Monmouth Beach, following the town’s bold action to ban all single-use plastic straws and containers at restaurants and other local establishments in order to curb pollution.
The “Party for the Playground” July 28 will feature food, drinks and live music. Tickets for the event are $75 and all proceeds will be donated to the project. The fundraisers are also selling custom-engraved bricks and benches to be installed at the playground. Pricing and sizes of the bricks vary from 4 inches by 8 inches for $100 to 8 inches by 8 inches for $250 and twelve by twelves for $500. As of June 3, brick sales have generated $1,700 in funding for the project.
“We’re ecstatic because this is actually going to happen,” Wladyka said, who expressed gratitude for the help from local and county officials along the way. “We just want to keep this momentum going and make sure that the grant money gets used or else we lose it.”
Project Playground is one of two new playground proposals in the borough. Monmouth Beach Elementary is also working to establish a new playground on its campus. The school’s new playground will replace its current kindergarten playground, which will be removed to make room for a new all-purpose facility.
Construction on the school project will begin this month, according to Monmouth Beach Superintendent Michael Ettore. “I think we all would agree that our playground being upgraded, and the playground across the street being renovated and upgraded, will only benefit our town and our residents,” Ettore said.
Those wishing more information about the project or its fundraisers can contact Wladyka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was first published in the June 7-June 14, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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