Allentown council will seek bids for initial work on Ashby Park

ALLENTOWN – The Borough Council has taken another step forward in the planned creation of Sgt. George Ashby Memorial Park in Allentown.

During a meeting on June 9, council members voted to authorize E&LP Associates, the firm with which they are working to develop Ashby Park, to seek bids from contractors who wish to perform the Phase I improvements of the project.

Mayor Thomas Fritts said, “We look forward to progress on this project.”

Allison Arnone, who chairs the Sgt. George Ashby Memorial Park Committee, has said Phase I work 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 a previous resolution passed by the council, Allentown has received a Monmouth County Municipal Open Space grant in the amount of $125,000 to assist in the development of Ashby Park.

The land where the park will be developed is bounded by Hamilton, Broad and North Main streets. The parcel is 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.

According to the website, 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.

Ashby is buried in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) cemetery on Hamilton Street, which is adjacent to the land that will be developed as a park and bear 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.