By John Burton
SEA BRIGHT – Plans to have a public park in the borough – the only one other than the public beach – took a huge step forward recently with the state’s purchase of the Anchorage Apartments complex, destroyed during Super Storm Sandy.
The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) signed contracts late last month with the owners of the apartment complex at 960 Ocean Ave., according to Bob Considine, a DEP spokesman.
The property is being purchased through the DEP’s Green Acres program. The department’s Division of Parks and Forestry will be responsible for overseeing the site but the maintenance will be the responsibility of the borough, Considine said.
The DEP declined to say what the sale price is until the closing is finalized, Considine said.
But Mayor Dina Long said in her discussions with DEP representatives, the price being negotiated with property owners, the Russo family, was “around $2 million,” a pre-Sandy assessment.
The apartment complex generated approximately $15,000 annually in property taxes, Long said.
The 1.17-acre property is situated just north of the Rumson-Sea Bright Bridge over the Shrewsbury River. The 1960s complex overlooks the river and “was just totaled” by Super Storm Sandy, Borough Administrator Joseph Verruni said. It has remained unoccupied since the October 2012 storm.
The site would be developed as a pocket park, intended for passive recreation, with the borough responsible for its maintenance. “It’ll be graded and seeded and we’re hopeful we’ll be able to apply for some grants to renovate it,” Verruni said.
“Our plans will be modest,” Long said, noting she hopes to recruit a landscape architect to donate time to the project.
The work will likely include constructing a deck, possibly a fishing area and installing safety railings, benches and landscaping, Verruni said.
“Basically, it’s envisioned as a gateway into the town,” Councilman Marc Leckstein said.
The site also will offer the only formal park area in the borough. “We don’t have any green space,” Leckstein said.
The borough had a small, award-winning public park overlooking the river, Swing Bridge Park, located behind the Nautilus condominium complex on Ocean Avenue but Sandy destroyed that location too, Long said.
“This is also, in my opinion, an important shore-protection project,” Long said.
Sea Bright is “extremely narrow at that location,” making it vulnerable to severe weather. “So, it’s a sensible location for a DEP buyout,” she said.
Monmouth County engineers are planning to eventually replace the existing bridge connecting Sea Bright and Rumson. Plans call for the new bridge to be relocated just south of the existing span, which would require county officials to acquire the property currently home to a Dunkin’ Donuts on Ocean Avenue. Tentative plans call for giving Sea Bright that structure and property, which could be used to expand the park, borough officials said.