Two representatives of the Monmouth County Parks Commission presented the first round of plans for a park in the Bradley Cove area to the Deal Lake Commission last night.
The park — referred to as BCOP, or Bradley Cove Oceanfront Park — would occupy three to 10 acres of land in the Bradley Cove and North End beach area. Currently, waterfront redeveloper iStar Financial has the rights to develop townhomes in some of the land in that area.
Local environmentalist groups have been fighting to have the space turned into a park for years. Monmouth County Park Commissioners Mike Harmon [pictured above, seated in foreground] and Kevin Mandeville [standing] support the plan, and hope the county will be able to buy land in Asbury Park and Loch Arbour to make the park a reality.
Harmon and Mandeville attended the Deal Lake Commission meeting last night to present their plans, but made it clear that they do not speak for all of the Monmouth County Parks Commissioners.
BCOP would be relatively small, but would provide access to the beach front as well as Deal Lake, which is the biggest lake in Monmouth County. The relatively small piece of property would be “a tremendous asset because it would connect everything,” he said.
The commission likely would not purchase the actual beach, but the tracts of land adjacent, Harmon said. The park could be used as a starting point for boats on the lake, surf lessons, swimming, sailing lessons, fishing, crabbing, volleyball and more.
The park would feature public restrooms and possibly a small building, Harmon said. The existing parking lot would be improved, he added. Beach access would have to be negotiated between the county and Asbury Park and Loch Arbour, he said.
The parks commission would want to open up access to the park, and keep it available to fishermen, surfers and dog-lovers, as it has been in the past.
The park would have regional appeal because of its location between Asbury Park, Loch Arbour, Allenhurst, Interlaken, and close to Ocean and Neptune townships. It would be similar to the Seabrook-Wilson House in Port Monmouth or Seven Presidents Park in Long Branch.
People living near Deal Lake and Bradley Cove are already contributing to the county’s open space fund through county property taxes, Harmon said. Asbury Park residents contribute about $208,000 to the fund, while Allenhurst contributes about $82,000, Harmon said. Interlaken pays $43,000 per year, Loch Arbour pays $26,000 and Ocean Township pays about $850,000.
The county puts a total of $17 million into the open space fund annually, Harmon said.
Neptune does have some county parks, Harmon said, and Ocean has one, but in the other towns, “we don’t have one square foot,” he said.
The county started to appraise the land at Bradley Cove before Hurricane Sandy hit, Harmon said, but had to stop after the storm. Now, they have started the process again.
After the appraisal, “we don’t care what the number is,” Harmon said. “It’s going to have to be a willing buyer and a willing seller, with Asbury Park saying yes or no.”
Even if iStar Financial decides not to relinquish its rights to develop, the county could still purchase land adjacent to where iStar would develop, Harmon said.
After the appraisal, “it’ll be a lot easier to sit down with iStar,” said Deal Lake Commissioner Don Brockel. “It’ll be a lot smoother.”
There are differences of opinion among county freeholders, parks commissioners and even Asbury Park council people on whether the county should operate a park in the city, Harmon said. Harmon suggested the Monmouth County Parks Commission could purchase the land at Bradley Cove, and ask the city to earmark those funds for a planned park on Springwood Avenue.
The Asbury Park council recently entered a Green Acres application to procure the land on its own, but the Green Acres funding is low right now.
“Personally, I’m very positive about the project,” Commissioner Brockel said last night. “They’ve got a long way to go, but it’s in the right direction. It’s bringing it back to the 1900s when everybody had fun on the lake. That’s what we need again.”
Last year, iStar Financial provided a statement to the city council saying they would like “fair treatment and just compensation” in Bradley Cove preservation. When contacted for comment on Bradley Cove recently, the redeveloper provided that same statement.