By KAYLA J. MARSH
ABERDEEN – Residents packed the new Fiorendo Sigismondi Cliffwood Community Center on Prospect Avenue to hear about some improvements coming to the Cliffwood Beach area that would result in a more attractive and lively destination.
“There’s a lot going on at the beach right now and we’re thrilled because it has probably been two or three decades too late,” Mayor Fred Tagliarini said during a June 21 meeting of the Township Council.
“We feel it is very worthwhile and I think it’ll just add some incredible value for our town and for the beach area.”
Anthony Abbonizio Jr., professional engineer with Howell-based CME Associates, said at the meeting that the Cliffwood Beach seawall would see an asphalt path put on the back side of it to offer more protection.
“Currently you have the railing and the concrete walkway …” he said. “We are putting a six-foot asphalt path actually on the back side of the seawall now because it will offer more protection for the seawall from future storms [and] erosion.
“… Essentially it will serve as a walkway, but it also has the (added benefit) of protecting from storm surge.”
Abbonizio said plans include putting some spaces for fisherman.
“We are going to put some fishing outcrops … there is I believe 10 of those … so this way with people/pedestrians walking, hopefully the fisherman won’t be in the way,” he said. “We were also asked by the township … to have some [spaces] for benches so you can sit and passively look out at the water [and] we have approximately 16 of those throughout the path.”
According to Councilman Greg Cannon, the township itself will be funding the $1.2 million project. He said the township will put down 10 percent and the rest of the project will be financed over 30 years at the market interest rate.
“We went to our insurance company and the insurance company ruled that this is a boardwalk appurtenance and not a structure that is insurable under our policy, so we got no money from the insurance company,” he said. “We went to FEMA and we did get some money … but reality has set in that we are actually going to be paying for this stuff.”
Abbonizio said funding has been one of the sore-spots of the proposed project as township officials had asked CME Associates a couple of years ago to look for alternative sources of funding.
“The township has been … trying to get some kind of funding to get this done so they don’t have to spend taxpayer money, [but] unfortunately, that fell through also and [council] decided to go through with [the project] on their own, spending their own money and authorizing us to do the design,” Abbonizio said.
He said funding permitting, another aspect of the proposed project includes building a gazebo off the asphalt walkway.
“The thought is if you have a five-year permit … if funding isn’t available, you still have that permit in hand if you ever want to do it as an add-on,” he said. “It made sense to apply for everything in one shot.”
Permits have been submitted to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and Abbonizio said there is typically a 90-day turn around period in responding to it, which would bring things to September.
“We did propose bringing some additional sand in, trying to have some additional protections for the beach, extending the beach … [and the application] is waiting for approval,” he said. “If all goes well and we get the permit, we can go out to bid in the fall for construction.
“The construction typically for something like this would probably take about six to eight months, but of course, it is weather dependent, [and we] ultimately [hope this is] ready for the summer of 2017.”
Tagliarini said the proposed project is still a work in progress as officials continue to review and tweak and figure out things such as placement of security cameras and lighting.
“What it is going to really do … now you’ll be able to walk the entire length of that seawall from the beach to its completion,” he said. “We think it is an important improvement for the beach area … we think this is long overdue and … [we want] to utilize this area to the best of our ability.”
Cannon said the project is a big investment and the township will do whatever it can to protect it.
“People waited a long time for this so if we are going to do it we are going to do it right,” one member of the audience stated.
Veterans Memorial Park at Cliffwood Beach will soon be getting a makeover as well as the governing body hopes to make the site a destination spot for years to come.
“We want this area utilized,” Tagliarini said. “It has been neglected … and [this site] is screaming out for tremendous usage by all of Aberdeen.”
Don Norbut, special project engineer with T&M Associates, updated the governing body on plans for the renovation of the site at Ocean Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive.
“We’re moving rapidly to try to complete the detailed engineering plans … and to go out and receive bids from contractors to build this park,” he said. “We hoping to finish the design within the next month, submit the permit to the NJDEP probably within the next two weeks, receive those permits probably in September or October and hopefully break ground Nov. 1 and if all goes well and stays on track we hope to have the park open this time next year.”
The five-acre tract, rectangular in shape, Norbut said right now is pretty void of anything, but added the seawall project will provide access to and from the park as well as to and from the beach.
“It was originally built with Green Acres money in the 70’s, and over the years, it has kind of taken a beating and it is really time for a renovation,” he said.
“What we are proposing to do is kind of work with some of the things that are already there and add a variety of different improvements.
“We really want to make and turn it from a passive recreation park into a really active park.”
Plans include a picnic grove area, the establishment of a combination softball and little league field, the existing basketball courts being upgraded and the roller hockey rink being converted to provide more parking to have more community events at the site.
“The main center of the site is going to be where all the action is and it is really going to be a kids park, but it is also going to be good for seniors and really for everyone,” Norbut said.
Along with a gazebo that has the possibility to be used as a bandstand for concerts, Norbut said a water spray park is also proposed for the site.
“It will be a great attraction, … and is really going to bring some life down to the waterfront,” he said.
The water park, which will have a pirate theme and can turn on and off automatically, will have a recirculation system so that water can be reused and recycled rather than just discharged to waste.
He said the entire park site overall, which will be completely handicapped-accessible, will also have a significant number of plantings and trees.
“I think this plan really is going to give you something to be proud of, someplace you are really going to want to be with your family and friends,” Norbut said, “It is just going to be a beautiful setting.”
The township was the recipient of a $250,000 grant from the Monmouth County Open Space Program that will help with the cost of the $2.3 million park project at Veterans Memorial Park.
“What we are looking to do is make the beach area something all of Aberdeen can proud of … and these are two incredible plans that are going to put this on the map,” Tagliarini said.
“I feel that once we have more activity down there, good people down there, family people, things at the fields going on, I think this is going to add property value, I think it is going to add things about Aberdeen and show the strength of our community.”