RED BANK – Riverside Gardens Park has taken a beating.
The park, arguably the borough’s highest profile public space, has sustained considerable damage from the effects of Hurricane Irene in 2011, Super Storm Sandy in 2012 and this winter’s cold and snowy weather. The site also has been impacted by vandals who have taken a toll on the well-used space.
The borough is now spending approximately $190,000 to repair the park, situated on West Front Street and overlooking the Navesink River, which had won awards for its design.
“The big part of the problem is water and skateboards,” said borough engineer Christine Ballard from T&M Associates.
The water from the nearby river has contributed to the fracture of the granite used for the walkway and damaged the waterfront boardwalk, along with other portions of the park that took a hit from Mother Nature.
“Once it starts, it gets worse from there,” Ballard said.
On top of all that, skateboarders have taken a fancy to the park’s layout with its low walls, steps leading down to the grass and hand railings. They use the park as an elaborate rink with obstacles to perform their stunts. The skate wheels and the scraping of boards has torn up much of the wall and has resulted in crumbling stone, as is the case of a lot of the walkways. Railings have been coming unhinged, creating a potential hazard for those using the park.
Graffiti has sprung up on some of the wall areas.
“Then you have the young folks who throw the furniture in the river” destroying the park’s benches, said Councilman Edward Zipprich, who chairs the council’s public works committee. “Now that’s why everything will be nailed down.”
Along with replacing and securing benches, the plan calls for the replacement of light fixtures and brick paving; remediating the graffiti damage; replacing and upgrading drainage and irrigation systems; replacing and repairing handrails; upgrading handicap accessibility; repairing walls; and replacing some of the granite walkways.
The walkways will be done in a way that will still be accessible to the public, especially for those who have physical challenges, but will not be so smooth to be inviting to skateboarders, Ballard said.
Though not included in the project but being considered for the future will be the installation of security cameras and, possibly in the next five years the replacement of the boardwalk area.
The project is being paid for through a borough council-approved bond.
According to Ballard, neither Monmouth County nor state grant money were options because those funds are awarded by prioritizing land acquisition and for new features over renovating existing property.
Riverside Gardens Park, which is about 2 acres, was constructed in semiround design completed in 2000 and won a couple of municipal engineering awards at the time. It features along with a picture postcard view of the river, the borough’s 9/11 memorial, public restrooms, an area that functions as a stage and a concession stand operated during special events conducted by the borough’s Department of Parks and Recreation each summer.
Events include Jazz in the Park concerts, weekly free movies and fitness classes.
The site is often used as the backdrop for wedding and prom photos.
Officials hope the work will be completed prior to Memorial Day weekend.