By ED SALVAS
A new organization formed to make Asbury Park’s Sunset Lake Park a year-round recreational and environmental habitat has begun making plans to carry out its mission.
The Sunset Lake Park Conservancy held its first fundraiser at the home of Celia Morrissette and Keith Johnson and raised about $3,400 dollars to get started on what will be an ongoing project to preserve the lake and park. Sunset Lake and park are located between Fifth and Sunset Avenues and from Webb Street to Main Street. That includes St. John’s Island which is a park within the park with an entrance from Grand Avenue as well as several smaller islands.
Following the fundraising reception, there’s no shortage of ideas, but also plenty of work ahead for the Conservancy, according to President Wendi Glassman. Residents were asked to suggest activities for the area and Glassman said they included walking trails, especially on the Sunset Avenue side, a fitness trail, benches, sculptures and comfort stations. Glassman said there could also be ice skating and boating, and even a small boat regatta. She would also like to bring back the Jazz Festival held in the park in past years but which have since been discontinued.
St. John’s Island is a major asset that should be used for events like weddings and concerts that could bring in additional revenue, she said. The Sunset Lake Commission, created by the city to care for the lake and park, cannot raise money and the Conservancy was set up to do that. The city Department of Public Works has agreed to remove dead trees from the park and the islands, according to City Councilwoman Eileen Chapman, a member of the Sunset Lake Commission. Chapman also expressed concern over a recent incident involving hundreds of dead fish in the lake and explained that the reason was overstocking of the lake by Monmouth County which failed to notify the city.
Last May, the city celebrated the reopening of the pedestrian bridge over Sunset Lake which was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and completely rebuilt with new lighting and benches and paid for primarily with money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.) Patrick Reihing, Treasurer of the newly-formed Sunset Lake Park Conservancy, said another clean-up and social event are planned for the fall to “keep the energy flowing.”