Oil Tank Scare at Rumson’s Piping Rock Park

November 21, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo |

RUMSON – In its current state, Piping Rock Park isn’t much to look at with tractors, steamrollers and construction materials piled on to what has been one of the borough’s most vibrant and active patches of open space.

The site is currently under construction as the borough conducts a series of recreational improvements to the 4.3-acre parcel; it is due to reopen in spring 2019. But Thomas S. Rogers, Rumson municipal clerk and administrator, said that timeline was nearly disrupted last month when a 1,000-gallon heating oil storage tank was discovered.

“It was a total surprise,” Rogers said in a Nov. 13 interview with The Two River Times. “But we acted quickly and responsibly and had it removed in a timely manner.”

This potential snag in the process came when the park’s playground jungle gym was being removed. During that procedure, the contractor uncovered the concrete foundation for Peter’s Piping Rock, an old borough restaurant from the 1940s previously located on the site.

Next to that foundation was the underground oil tank which still contained an estimated 400 gallons of oil, according to Rogers.

Rogers said the borough hired an environmental engineer to oversee the safe removal of the tank and, upon inspection of the area, a small oil spill was discovered.

“It was determined (the oil spill) either happened while they were filling the tank years ago or it might have been there from a prior tank,” Rogers said.

Before the launch of Peter’s Piping Rock, the land was part of the estate of Rumson’s first mayor Frank McMahon. The tank could have been used to heat the furnace of a structure on the estate or the restaurant itself.

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“We dug out less than a cubic yard of soil and had it removed in a 55-gallon drum,” said Rogers, who added that all of the soil around the spill has been tested “and came back negative” for trace contamination.

Construction on the site has continued as scheduled and Rogers said the project’s completion date is not in jeopardy.

“If the weather cooperates, we’re expecting the tennis courts to be open before the end of the year,” Rogers said. “But there’s still some work to be done on the fields that will improve the quality and longevity of the grounds.”

In September the borough began laying the groundwork for this renovated facility situated opposite Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School along Forrest Avenue by selectively trimming trees, removing existing park equipment and preparing to relocate the park’s 9/11 memorial to a more prominent position near the Carton Street entrance.

When October came so did a completed plan for the scope of the work, which included a 250-foot radius baseball and softball field, with a patch of outfield turf that will double as a 180-by-330-foot multipurpose natural grass field, which can accommodate soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and football practice activities. The dirt diamond will be surrounded by a new backstop, team benches, spectator bleachers and an irrigation system for improved site drainage.

The plan also included reconfigured parking lots along Carton Street and East River Road and additional parking stalls. New ADA compliant entry points and pathways and a modernized playground facility are also in the works for the 4.3-acre parcel.

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The pair of tennis courts on-site are being carried over from the park’s previous layout, even though the initial concept looked to have these courts removed due to a lack of use after the high school transitioned its teams to new facilities at Fair Haven Fields last year.

By October’s end new concrete curbing and sidewalks had been installed along Forrest Avenue, which Rogers said eliminates the need for pedestrians to walk behind parked cars to gain entry to the park, “which is a major public safety improvement.”

Rogers said an irrigation system is being installed in November, as is the new playground and a drainage system for that playground. Playground equipment, he said, will be arriving soon.

This article was first published in the Nov. 15-21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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