LACEY – One thing that sets Bayfront Park apart from other parks – it’s got a one-of-a-kind view.
Most parks are surrounded by woods, or in the middle of a housing project. This park is tucked away off Beach Boulevard. The entrance pops up out of nowhere between houses in a lagoon neighborhood. It juts off on a little nub of land overlooking Barnegat Bay and the mouth of the Forked River. The Barnegat Lighthouse is visible across the water.
And because it was on a picturesque location surrounded by water, it got totally decimated by Superstorm Sandy.
Casey Parker, the director of public works, had said that the area had been so damaged that the gazebo had been carried a quarter of a mile into a neighbor’s backyard. Some of the rocks that formed a barrier from the water had been uprooted and carried off.
Today, it looks a lot different. The gazebo stands in the middle, overlooking a picnic area. Two playgrounds are there, based on different age groups. The playground areas are nautical themed, with a pirate ship adorned with a lion, the school’s mascot. There is an infant swing, in which a parent and child can swing together, facing each other.
The park was designed to capitalize on the view. There are walkways to the shoreline, with binoculars for people to look out. There is also opportunity for people in wheelchairs to look out. Exercise equipment lines the shore, giving people a nice view while they work out.
Gabion cages – metal fencing linking together all the rocks – are wrapped around the outside to keep the rocks in place and withstand erosion. Parker said these are designed to protect the park in the future.
The total cost was $1.4 million, business administrator Veronica Laureigh said.
The township funded the engineering of the park, designed by CME Associates, but $1.1 million of the cost was paid for by the state grants for disaster recovery, she said. It was officially opened on July 19 for the summer concert series, but the ribbon cutting came a few weeks later.
The old park was a habitat for terrapin turtles, so some space was provided for them. There are 25 turtle tunnels, pipes that lead from the water through the rocks to the shore so they can find places to nest. There is also a turtle garden fenced off for them to lay eggs. However, she said she hadn’t heard yet if the turtles had been spotted.
Some residents had complained that the grass was overgrown. The problem is that in certain months, the town can’t cut the grass because of the turtles. Previously, they used to cut it whenever needed. But now, since there’s environmental oversight in how the park was designed, cutting is forbidden. The township is trying to get a waiver or a change in the rules for this.
Mayor Peter Curatolo admired the newly renovated park. “This park is designed so well, CME asked if they could enter it into a national contest for engineering and design,” he said. “It’s a real testament to the planning and expertise of the professionals involved.”