Sea Bright Seeks Project Grants For Rooney Park And River Access

July 31, 2018
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By Chris Rotolo

Sea Bright is seeking to fund the rehabilitation of Swing Bridge Park. The park, which was dedicated to former Mayor Charlie Rooney Jr., is the last piece of borough property that has not been restored since Super Storm Sandy. Photo by Chris Rotolo

SEA BRIGHT – The borough is looking to fix up a water front park and improve river access opportunities.

At a special meeting July 17, officials announced they are seeking an Open Space Grant from Monmouth County for the restoration of Swing Bridge Park, as well as a state Community Development Block Grant for the construction of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant public access platforms along the bulkheads constructed at the ends of Osborne Place and Center and Beach streets.

“If we’re able to acquire these grants and complete these projects I know it will mean a lot to our community because these are things our residents have wanted for some time now,” Mayor Dina Long said in phone interview Tuesday.

In 2014 the borough received a grant to raise the river bulkheads in the center of town, a safety measure to alleviate flooding issues in the downtown business district, but an endeavor that ultimately hindered the scenic river views of residents.

“The community understands why we made the decision (to raise the bulkheads), but they’ve also been asking for a way to see the river,” said Marc Leckstein, Borough Council president, in a Tuesday morning phone interview. “The river view is a reason why people love living here. The view is something they’d grown accustomed to.”

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If provided a grant for the work, the borough will construct ADA-accessible platforms on these particular bulkheads, with a goal to move forward with applications to fund access for the remaining public street bulkheads in future years.

A second project focuses on unhindered access to river views atop borough bulkheads. The borough plans to use grant money to construct ADA-accessible viewing platforms above its public bulkheads on Osborne Place, and Center and Beach streets. Photo by Chris Rotolo

“It’s something we want to do for all of our residents,” Leckstein said. “If we get the grant, it requires that the bulkhead platforms be ADA compliant, which is great, because we do have some residents and visitors who fall under that category and should have access to the river like anyone else.”

Leckstein confirmed that the borough is committed to the installation of at least one of those platforms and a ramp this year, regardless if the grant is received.

The Open Space Grant being sought for the rehabilitation of Swing Bridge Park is a “match grant.” Sea Bright is seeking $10,000 from the county and will then match that amount to cover the remaining balance of the approximately $20,000 project, funds Leckstein said are already available in insurance proceeds.

The park was initially built with funding from a county grant and, in 2000 – one year after it was dedicated to former mayor Charles Rooney Jr. – it was honored by the county with the Ross W. Maghan Award for Exemplary Park Maintenance.

It’s the county’s past support of this section of community green space that has council members, including Charles Rooney III, hopeful further aid will come.

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“Personally, as the son of the former mayor, it’s always been an honor for our family to have a park in Sea Bright named after my dad,” Rooney said in a phone interview Tuesday. “My family has always maintained the park to certain standards because we have a lot of pride in it. So, hopefully, if we get this grant and we can get it going again, the park will once again be a point of pride for our family and our community.”

The park is located in the footprint of the borough’s old swing bridge, which is now situated between the municipality’s Dunkin Donuts and the Nautilus Condominiums at 2 Rumson Road.

Swing Bridge Park was wiped out by Super Storm Sandy and, though it is still used as a casting point for many local fishermen, Leckstein views its rehabilitation and the installation of amenities as symbolic of the municipality’s resurgence since the devastation it faced in 2012.

“We have high hopes for the completion of Rooney Park,” Leckstein said. “We can’t leave it in the shape that it’s in. It really is the last piece of borough property that hasn’t been restored since Sandy. We’re committed to getting this done.”

This article was first published in the July 26-Aug. 2, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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