By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN – The borough will be getting some state assistance to acquire a long sought-after property to create a small riverfront park.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has awarded the borough $655,750 to assist local officials with the purchase of property at the northern end of DeNormandie Avenue for use as a pocket park.
The property, approximately .69-acre parcel, overlooks the Navesink River, according to Lawrence Ragonese, DEP director of public affairs.
The tract is near the Fair Haven Dock, Borough Clerk Allyson Cinquegrana said.
The money is coming from the DEP’s Blue Acres Program, Ragonese said. The program is part of the department’s Green Acres program, which allocates money for the preservation of open space. The Blue Acres program was first approved by a bond act in 1997 and reaffirmed by referendum in 2009 when voters approved an additional $24 million.
The program is aimed at the purchase of property in flood-prone areas from willing owners by government entities.
“There are some flooding issues along the Navesink, so this property would be eligible,” Ragonese said.
The grant stipulates that the municipality put up matching funds for the property acquisition, he said.
Borough officials have been in negotiations with the property owners since 2009 for the parcel, Cinquegrana said. The delay seems to stem from a long overlooked issue about combining what was initially two lots, requiring the borough attorney to do some extensive research on the property title, which goes back about 100 years, Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli said.
“It’s been several years and I’m hoping we’re within eight months of getting the title cleared,” the mayor said.
The plan calls for the riverfront property to be converted into a small park for passive recreation and would allow public access to the water, according to Lucarelli.
“It’s one of the nicest chunks of beach along the river,” he said. “It’s really going to be an area for residents or anybody to go down by the river and enjoy themselves and have access to the water.”
The property has been in the Robards family for more than a century, Lucarelli said. “I think that’s kind of special.”
Once the plan is finalized, the park area will have a plaque that details the history of the property and honors the family, the mayor said.
The state money would be part of a funding bill that is currently making its way through the state legislature, and would be contingent on the governor’s approval.
“He’s likely to sign that bill,” Ragonese said.