By John Burton
MIDDLETOWN – The Monmouth Conservation Foundation has been working with Monmouth County officials and others to move forward on a project to preserve property that will allow public access to the Navesink and Swimming rivers.
The foundation, headquartered in Middletown, has been working for a number of years to acquire property on West Front Street on the Red Bank/Middletown border, overlooking the Swimming River. The area, called Chris’s Landing, will become a county waterfront park area, allowing access to the area rivers and providing a place for people to launch small boats.
The closing on the property is expected by the end of 2015.
The contract for sale for the approximately 12-acre site, currently the location of Chris’s Deli and Marina, is with the foundation which is acquiring the site on behalf of the Monmouth County Park System.
“What’s nice about this project is that we will have a property that provides public access to both the Red Bank and Middletown communities,” said Lisa McKean, director of marketing and development for the conservation foundation.
That is particularly beneficial for Red Bank, a largely urban, mostly built-out community with a significant low- and moderate-income family population, McKean said. “It is an important effort that we’re undertaking and it serves a greater purpose because it serves a wider breadth of the community.”
The Monmouth Conservation Foundation is a countywide land trust, established 37 years ago, that works for the preservation of open space.
Tentative plans call for the site to have a ramp for people to launch small boats, a parking area for vehicles and trailers, a picnic site and a small amphitheater, according to William Kastning, the foundation’s executive director.
The property sale contract is for $3.81 million, with the foundation serving as the agent for the county freeholders for the transaction, Kastning said.
The delay in closing stems from the ongoing construction of the neighboring county bridge. A portion of the property is being used as a staging area. There also are environmental considerations and needed remediation.
According to Kastning, the property has underground fuel storage tanks that serviced the site’s marina; there is some “hotspots” of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), but “that’s easily dealt with,” he said.
In addition, there are remnants of pesticides on portions of the property where an apple orchard was located, the remains of some material dredged from the river that was stored there and asphalt millings from the parking lot that will have to be addressed, he said.
The parties are waiting for the final environmental report to determine the cost of the cleanup, which will be paid for by the owners from proceeds of the sale, Kastning said.
Chris DeFilippo, now 91 and retired, has owned the property and opened the deli and marina back in 1949, according to his daughter, Christine Tramitz, who operates the deli business.
The location is zoned for multifamily residential use. “There are those who wanted to put condos here,” Tramitz said.
“I just decided to not do it. I wanted to preserve it and keep it as pristine as it used to be,” she said.
Tramitz, who was born in 1952, has worked for the family owned business for most of her life. The portion of the property with the deli business and home is not part of the sale. She plans to continue living there and operating the deli.