By KENNY WALTER
LONG BRANCH- The City Council is putting plans in place to make improvements to the city’s flagship park.
During the Sept. 13 workshop meeting, Jason Burneyko, an engineer with DW Smith Associates, said the main part of the improvements, which is being dubbed Phase III of Manahassett Creek Park, will include extensive buffering near neighboring houses.
“The first area we identified that needed some improvements was along the perimeter of the park, along Bay Avenue,” he said. “We took some of the considerations from the city into account and we are going to be providing a staggered double row private hedges along the frontage of Bay Avenue.
“Behind those hedges there will be a graded berm, which will increase the ground elevation by about four feet or so.”
Burneyko said that the hedges will likely begin at six feet in height and eventually grow to 12 feet.
Burneyko said phase III will also include additional landscaping in previously under landscaped areas.
“The other area that we are going to be improving is the landscaping area along Manhassett Court common area,” he said. “That area is just one of the more bare areas that we never properly vegetated.”
Burneyko also said the additional vegetation will help supplement existing rain gardens in the area.
The city will also widen the backstop behind the soccer field by 20 feet in each direction.
“There are still balls that are leaving the park and going out onto Long Branch Avenue,” Burneyko said. “We are also proposing an additional backstop along the football goal post.”
Other work included in the project will be the replacement of playground surfacing, the replacement of an asphalt walkway, re-striping the three parking lots and improvements to the park’s fencing.
The project will be funded by using a $312,000 grant from Green Acres, as well as an identical Green Acres loan with zero percent interest. During the meeting, the council introduced a $624,000 bond ordinance for the project.
Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. said he expects that the work would take six to 12 months to complete and to be finished by next summer.
The first phase of the park cost $4 million, most of which came from Green Acres and Department of Community Affairs grants.
The park features two soccer fields, two softball fields, two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a full baseball field and a football field.
Also included in the park are a fitness trail, a putting green and restrooms.
City sports organizations such as Pop Warner and Long Branch Little League have used the park as their home fields but pick-up games are allowed at the park as well.
Phase II included several other changes and improvements to the rest of the 20-acre park that is located on Long Branch Avenue and north of Atlantic Avenue.
The city started planning the park in 2002 and broke ground in 2008.