RED BANK – There may be help and hope in the offing to restore the Super Storm Sandy-damaged tennis courts at Marine Park.
A group of former members of the borough’s clay tennis courts have approached borough officials about taking over the responsibility of rebuilding and maintaining the more than 70-year-old courts, a favorite for area players.
Players have been expressing frustration that nearing two years after Sandy struck, the courts remain damaged, overgrown with vegetation and unusable with no plan put forth by officials on what will be done to restore them.
Officials have said they have had to prioritize work needed to be done because of limited financial resources and have decided to concentrate on the bigger project of repairing Marine Park’s infrastructure.
Borough Councilman Edward Zipprich, a member of the council’s parks and recreation committee, said the committee met July 1 with representatives of a proposed not-for-profit for the courts with the group offering an outline of what they would like to do.
The group, calling itself the Red Bank Clay Court Foundation, is made up of former court members, said Paul Moschella, a Little Silver resident heading up the effort.
The foundation would like to strike a public/private partnership with the borough, allowing the foundation to rebuild the courts. The courts could remain where they are currently located on Union Street or possibly be moved to the south by about 10 to 15 feet. The possibility of raising the lower court 3 to 4 feet to hopefully prevent a reoccurrence of what happened in October 2012, when Sandy hit, is also being discussed, Moschella said.
More specifically, the foundation envisions constructing what Moschella called hydracourts, a type of clay court that requires less water and less maintenance, hopefully keeping the traditional red topping; and building three smaller “quick start” courts, for younger players. The installation of lighting is also a possibility.
The foundation would take responsibility for management and upkeep. All it would ask the borough to do would be to construct the discussed flood prevention retaining wall. “The only thing the town would be responsible for is collecting the garbage,” Moschella said.
“We have an opportunity for them to be better than they were in the past,” said Chuck Watson, a borough resident who has used the courts for about 20 years and is working with Moschella on formation of the foundation and its plan.
Zipprich stressed that with any proposal, borough officials are obligated to adhere to law as to how such a project could proceed before awarding any contract for the use of public property. That would require seeking formal requests for proposals (RFPs), public hearings and a majority approval vote of the governing body.
“We would have to go through the formal channels,” he said.
The borough traditionally has charged tennis players a fee for the courts’ use, either by an annual amount or by the hour, according to Watson.
The courts also were used for U.S. Tennis Association-sanctioned tournaments with the visiting teams paying for use.
The courts – Moschella calls them “crown jewel of Red Bank” – are attractive to players because there are few clay courts available. Clay courts are softer and easier on players’ bones and muscles, especially for older tennis players, Moschella said.
So far this is the only proposal floated from the private sector for the courts. The committee “still has some homework to do,” before it weighs in with its recommendation, Zipprich said.
There is a group, however, that has told the parks and recreation committee they would like to see that property used for a recreational use other than tennis courts, something that has a broader appeal.
“We’re listening to everybody,” Zipprich said.