Resident Seeks Cleanup, Reopening of Brookforest Beach Club
Rec Commission, Borough Officials back idea
June 12th, 2010
by Erik Weber
SOUTH TOMS RIVER - In recent weeks, one man's inspiration to draw together a group of area volunteers and clean up, restore and maintain a largely forgotten beach area, here, has been met with swift support by borough officials, and some cautious optimism.
The Hummel Drive resident behind the project, Andrew Howard, stated that the plan was to first clean up the beach area, located on Brookforest Drive and known as the Brookforest Beach Club, including clearing all weeds and growth that have accumulated over the natural white sand along the Jakes Branch shoreline, and removing any trash present.
A potential secondary goal would be to investigate the steps necessary to reopen the beach for swimming, and devising a self-sustaining financial system to fund lifeguards in order to do so.
Besides the existing tributary shoreline, a heavily graffitied playground area also stands at the site, with a number of recently installed equipment and a paved parking area.
Brookforest Beach Club: Today
The subject of the beach cleanup and restoration was first proposed late last month on what has become the borough's defacto official Facebook group, which boasts over 500 members and serves as a sort of online community sounding board for borough culture, notices, requests and general discussion.
In that early post, Mr. Howard assured members that "yes, there is white sand underneath all those weeds."
Initially, about a half dozen members chimed in support.
From there, the Hummel Drive resident took his case to the borough recreation commission, where he had recently been appointed a commissioner, during its Thursday, June 3rd meeting at the Recreation Center on Drake Lane, where fellow commissioners Don and Carol Williams, Mr. Gleason, and council liaison, Sandford Ross, Jr., all voiced support.
Mr. Ross recommended that an already established borough group take on the project, such as the parks committee.
"It needs to be spearheaded by a group already in place," he said. "The parks committee should be involved and aware of what you are doing - I recommend you get as much specifications in place as possible and then bring it to the governing body to get their support."
"I was told it was cleaned up a number of times and trashed a number of times [over the years]," said Mr. Howard, adding that he was also aware the borough's public works department fairly regularly cut the grass along the playground area of the site.
"Bring the specs to the governing body and it can assign public works to do [overall maintenance] on a regular basis," replied Mr. Ross.
Ms. Williams noted that she was part of one of the earlier cleanup efforts, which temporary renewed interest for further improvements at the site that eventually dissipated.
"It all fell through," she said.
Delving into the condition of the site today, recreation commission members variously stated that the two basketball courts present had been without poles for a number of years and had become cracked and damaged by age and the growth of weeds, that a volleyball court on the beachfront had not held a net in recent memory and had also become overrun with unchecked growth, and that an abundance of graffiti existed on the playground equipment.
Mr. Howard suggested that a formal committee for the beach area be created to organize a clean-up effort and create a regular system of maintenance and upgrades through volunteers and fundraising.
He added that the area should also be routinely monitored by borough police, the neighborhood watch program and civic-minded residents, in order to curtail any unwarranted degradation and vandalism.
Local, state and national grant programs, including those run by Home Depot and OceanFirst Bank, were named as potential sources for funds.
Brookforest Drive resident, former councilman and 2010 GOP candidate for the borough council, Bertram Plante, gave statements of support for the proposed new focus on the municipal beach area in the weeks following the recreation commission meeting.
"I'm certainly not against the idea - I'm all for cleaning up the beach club itself to have back as a recreation area," he said, adding that it would be a big effort to push for lifeguards to allow swimming again, and that "they would have to be creative on how to go about doing that" by "finding some way to pay for itself as opposed ot raising taxes."
Councilman George Greitz agreed.
"We've got to make sure we have a way to fund keeping it [following the initial cleanup and rehabilitation]," he said, adding that along with local volunteers, the beach club may offer great opportunities for area boy scouts possibly seeking projects for earning their Eagle Scout awards.
"The more kids involved, the better," the councilman continued, noting that turning many of the area youths who would utilize the park into its volunteer caretakers would breed a level of pride and sense of responsibility for it well beyond their duties.
Mr. Plante further speculated that the future of the beach area could again be a benefit for the borough, as it had in its early years.
"It's certainly worth exploring," Mr. Plante said. "There was a time when it was a nice little beach down there, and it would be nice if it was again."
The next meeting of the borough council will be today at 7 pm in borough hall on Mill Street.