ALLENTOWN – In one of his final acts as Allentown’s mayor, Greg Westfall, whose term ended on Dec. 31, announced that the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has approved funding for the first phase of development for the Sgt. George Ashby Memorial Park.
The park is bounded by Hamilton, Broad and North Main streets and is situated behind the Allentown United Methodist Church property.
Allentown officials purchased the 3-acre tract in 2016 for $250,000. The Monmouth County Open Space Program contributed $125,000 toward the purchase and the Monmouth Conservation Foundation contributed $25,000.
Westfall said that during the last three years, Allentown paid for the property by using its municipal open space tax and now owns the tract.
In 2018 the Sgt. George Ashby Memorial Park Committee, a panel of volunteers led by local resident Allison Arnone, issued a request for proposals for landscape architecture
services to create a vision and design for the park.
Eight firms responded to the request and Engineering and Land Planning, LLC (E&LP) was selected to complete the work.
In February and April 2019, public visioning sessions conducted by representatives of E&LP were held to determine the best design for development of the park. A design concept was
developed for the future park, according to Westfall.
The Sgt. George Ashby Memorial Park Committee, with Borough Council approval, applied for a $125,000 grant for the park’s development.
The Monmouth County freeholders approved the $125,000 grant at their Dec. 19 meeting.
The grant funding, in part, will be used for the development of walkways connecting the
park to its entrances on Broad Street and at Hamilton and Mechanic streets.
Westfall said Allentown will match the county’s $125,000 with funding from its municipal open space tax. He said the county grant must be used within a certain time frame.
Westfall said work would begin following an engineering layout and final design and identification of a contractor to undertake the construction. He said this would be expected to take place in 2020.
Arnone has said Phase I of Ashby park’s development may include the removal of overgrown grass, the removal of trees, some earth work, the planting of trees around a planned pathway, cleaning up the areas near the proposed entrances and what she called “creating the bones of the park.”
Arnone has said the cost to develop the park could approach $1.2 million.
According to the website findagrave.com, George Ashby died at his home in Allentown on April 26, 1946, at age 102. At the time of his death, Ashby was the last remaining New Jersey Civil War veteran.
He is buried in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) cemetery on Hamilton Street, which is adjacent to the park that now bears his name.
Municipal officials have said that in addition to Ashby, there are other African-American soldiers from Allentown who served in the Civil War who are buried in the AME cemetery.