In Survey, Residents Want Parks to Preserve Open Space

November 12, 2018
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In 2019 the county parks department will replace this century-old wooden bridge spanning Waackack Creek, located on the Henry Hudson Trail in Hazlet.

By Denise DiStephan |

Like Bing Crosby sang, Monmouth County residents want “land, lots of land” in their county parks, along with preservation of forests, historic sites and landscapes.

Those were among the strongest sentiments expressed in a county parks survey last year, where respondents made it clear they want open land staying that way, want more acquired, and they prefer their park trails unpaved, thank you very much. The results of the survey were recently summarized in a county park newsletter.

The most important benefit for respondents of three questions was the preservation of open space and the environment. This was followed closely by preservation of forests, historic sites and landscapes and water quality.

There is also strong support for connecting sections of the Henry Hudson Trail and adding bike lanes to increase access to the parks. In terms of improvements, better signage is requested on trails and more seating options in the parks.

The “wish list” for new amenities includes: skate parks, outdoor basketball courts, indoor pickleball courts, dog parks, new and improved playgrounds, liquor permits, an ice skating rink, floating docks and boat launch, cross-country ski opportunities, shuttle service, equestrian facilities, fitness equipment along trails and lawn activities (shuffleboard, horseshoes and outdoor chess tables).

The 2017 Monmouth County Open Space Plan Citizen Survey was sent to more than 40,000 people, resulting in 3,258 visits to the survey website. There were 874 surveys completed, with 98 percent of the respondents residing in Monmouth County.

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The county is planning a number of long-range capital improvement projects, including the connection respondents said they want to see between two sections of the Henry Hudson Trail.

The northern trail section runs 12 miles (just north of and parallel to Route 36) from the Aberdeen-Keyport border at the intersection of Lloyd Road and Clark Street to the Leonardo section of Middletown-Atlantic Highlands border at Avenue D.

After sharing the road, the trail resumes at the Atlantic Highlands Marina and continues along Sandy Hook Bay to Popamora Point on the Atlantic Highlands-Highlands border.

The trail runs 4 miles from Route 537 in Freehold to Big Brook Park in Marlboro and then resumes at Station Road in Marlboro and continues for five miles to Church Street in Matawan. Future plans for the trail include linking those two sections of trail and providing a connection to the original, northern section of the Henry Hudson Trail.

Paul Gleitz, park planner, said the project is being planned and federal funding is being sought, but there is no estimated date for completion.

“That’s a multiyear project, a lot of our capital projects are,” he said. “We’re seeking federal funds and working with state DOT (Department of Transportation) and NJ Transit.”

A related project planned for construction in the summer is renovation of two bridges that are both more than 100 years old on the Bayshore section of the Henry Hudson Trail. They are both timber railroad trestle bridges that were converted to trail bridges 22 years ago. The first bridge spans Chingarora Creek in Hazlet. It was damaged during Super Storm Sandy, when storm surge lifted the deck off the pile caps and shifted the middle of the span several feet off center.

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“Fortunately, the pile caps extend out several feet on either side, so the bridge is still functional,” according to the parks website. “The top portion of the bridge will be replaced. The second bridge spans Waackack Creek, also in Hazlet. Overall this bridge is in good condition. However some of the piles that hold it up are eroding where they enter the streambed. The plan is to remove the entire section of bridge that spans the creek and replace it with a prefabricated steel bridge. This will eliminate the piles in the stream and allow the creek to flow unimpeded.”

The parks officials have not shifted gears on capital improvement plans as a result of the survey responses, Gleitz said.

“The survey is a way to see if what residents want lines up with our own thinking and a lot of it does,” Gleitz said. “No one here looked at the survey answers and said, ‘Oh, I never thought of this. We have to do this right away.’ But it does help inform our decision-making. “

For example, respondents said they want more acquisition of open space and more unpaved trails, which are both in line with what is being worked on, he said.

For more information about the survey, see the Green Heritage county parks newsletter, which can be found under “About Us” at monmouthcountyparks.com.

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