Mayor makes pitch for new playground at the beachfront

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BRADLEY BEACH— Mayor Gary Engelstad’s goal of installing a new playground at the borough’s beachfront before his term expires at the end of 2020 edged closer to reality this week.

The mayor aired his plans to add a new $80,000 playground to the southern end of the borough’s beachfront to members of the borough council Tuesday night.

After discussions with residents on the south end, the mayor said the feedback regarding a new playground has been “very positive.”

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“A lot of them make the trip down to either the Avon [by-the-Sea] playground or to the one that we have on the board,” he said.

“The fact that I have a third grandchild coming this Saturday had no bearing bearing on this topic at all,” he joked.

Starting the workshop discussion, the mayor said that the borough aims to be viewed as a family beach town.

Citing examples of playgrounds on the beaches in nearby municipalities — four in Belmar, and one in Asbury Park and Avon-by-the-Sea — Mayor Engelstad said he would like to see the installation of a playground on the southern end of the beachfront between the promenade and the dunes. An early area for consideration presented at the meeting was between Evergreen and Second avenues.

Currently, the only playground on the beachfront is on the beachfront promenade in the northern section of the borough.

“There are a lot more exciting and fun options for playground equipment since we put the playground equipment on the existing boardwalk playground and I think it will be a long-overdue feature for families coming to our beach,” the mayor said.

Councilman Randy Bonnell said that he was interested in the idea. Council President John Weber said it was a “fine idea” but details need to be figured out first before the project moved forward.

Councilman Tim Sexsmith said that if the borough does go through with the project, to also include improvements to the north end playground as well.

“Some of the equipment is obsolete and some of it is worn,” he said, adding that the playground at Bradley Beach Elementary School is also in need of an upgrade.

Councilman Al Gubitosi said it might be wise to look at the project within the context of a broader budget discussion and not “in a vacuum.”

“If there was an opportunity to do something for Bradley Beach Elementary School as well, perhaps we can look at this all in the context of what money we have available to spend,” he said. “I love the idea, I am just hesitant to commit before addressing the bigger picture.”

In regards to financing the project, Chief Financial Officer Sandra Rice said that the timing was just right, as the borough should take advantage of current low-interest rates.

“The timing of this playground project might actually fall really nicely in line with the refinancing of our current debt,” she said. Noting that beach revenue is significant up this year, she said the borough is well-positioned to “take on additional debt for this playground” or financing it in next year’s budget.

“Financially, we are going to be in a very good position as far as the beach utility is concerned to be able to do this,” she added.

Last year in total, through the sale of season and daily badges, the borough made roughly $1.5 million. This year, as of Tuesday, the borough made roughly $2.3 million in beach revenue, $700,000 more than the borough had expected to make this year.

She attributed the windfall to the increase in daily beach badge fees to $13, a sellout of seasonal badges. The borough’s extension of the beach season, with badges to be sold on weekends in September, means that revenue will continue to increase throughout the month.

“I think with revenues like this being generated … I think we are looking at really good numbers to finance some of the projects going forward,” Ms. Rice said.

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