Sunset Lake Commission Says Time for a City Department of Parks

The Sunset Lake Commission, the group charged with overseeing the care and quality of the lake and the park that surrounds it, believes it’s time the city of Asbury Park creates a dedicated city department to care for all of the city’s parks.

“The Sunset Lake Commission requests that the City Council recommend to the city manager that a Parks Department be established in order to provide better care and maintenance of the lakes, parks and green spaces within the city of Asbury Park,” the commission said in a letter.

Jaimee Nadell, co-chair of the panel, said the letter was sent to the City Council after five months of discussions at commission meetings. The commission has been reviewing the condition at Sunset Park.  which stretches from Main Street  east to Webb Street  and includes the area known as St. John’s Island which has access off Grand Avenue.

The letter points out that the city has a significant park and recreation system that includes more than a dozen parks, lakes, school recreation areas, and the beach. The city Master Plan also encourages the city to increase the number of recreation and green spaces as the city’s population continues to grow.

“The opening of Springwood Park in 2016 and the Public Art Park in 2017 are prime examples of efforts by the city to continue to expand the number of parks and playgrounds to serve the entire community,” the letter said.

Presently, the job of parks and lake maintenance falls to the city Department of Public Works which the commission points out has a staff of 25, none of whom has the required specialized parks management or landscaping experience.

“The establishment of a specialized skilled workforce, dedicated to all of the city’s green, park and water spaces would  allow for the growth and development of a unified vision of design and plan execution, for all green spaces within the city, proper allocation of resources, and reduce the reliance on outside contractors for all of the tasks that would be required of a typical urban Parks Department,” the letter said.

The suggestion is a positive move said Tom Pivinski, head of the Environmental and Shade Tree Commission, who said the all-volunteer ESTC could function as a “right hand” for the department. Pivinkski said he met recently with Interim City Manager Donna Viero and suggested the need to inject a spirit of professionalism into the DPW and that there should be someone within the department to oversee the care of all of the Public Spaces in Asbury Park.

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