Seaside Park officials remain intent on redeveloping the playground area of the shuttered Seaside Park Elementary School into a safe and useful recreation area, but have yet to formally decide on what activities should be hosted there.
The borough council and school board – which still exists to determine administrative matters of the non-operating district – are jointly working on the project and have both pledged to host a public meeting to solicit community input before any decisions are made on the future of the site. Under consideration, based on long-term requests from residents, are proposals to turn the area into a pickleball court and bocce court, though some in town have also asked for a skateboard park to be considered.
Mayor John Peterson said in his discussions with members of a subcommittee working on the project, the consensus is that the playground area will not likely include lighting, as some neighboring residents have warned that it could be disturbing. At a recent meeting of the council, members debated whether the playground should be dedicated to activities more likely to be undertaken by children or adults.
“I hope that we keep in mind that our population isn’t all people who want to play pickleball or bocce ball,” said Councilwoman Gina Condos. “There are still a lot of kids here despite people thinking we don’t have many kids since we don’t operate the school.”
Councilman Frank “Fritz” McHugh, an avid surfer and proponent of a skate park, said that while he is open to the idea of opening a facility in town, there does not appear to be enough room to operate one in the school playground area, which has long been used as a basketball court with a macadam surface. The surface, however, has deteriorated and the park is no longer safe for use. Old equipment will be removed by the borough’s Public Works staff as the overall project to reshape the park remains under discussion.
“If anyone’s into surfing and skating, it’s me,” said McHugh, addressing Condos’ concerns. “If you look at the space required for a skate park, it just doesn’t fit down there. Nobody is against that, but where would you propose other than there?”
Condos said she was not intent on making a formal proposal, but continuing a discussion. McHugh said there may be an opportunity to open up some skating facilities near the municipal marina – specifically, in an unused area near the bay that is currently populated with discarded rocks and concrete. A skate park would not have to be built to professional-level standards, however, and could be developed as a feature of another recreation area, officials said.
“You don’t necessarily even have to do a skateboard park – you can have elements that skateboarders can use that integrate with a playground area,” said Borough Attorney Steven Zabarsky, who drafted the contracts required to build a skate park in Point Pleasant Beach while working in that town. “There are also some very, very tight restrictions as to how it would have to be done.”
The restrictions generally focus on safety and are required to satisfy insurance regulations.
As for the school playground, the idea of a joint pickleball-bocce court has picked up steam, with organizers leaning toward a bocce area on the side that would be smaller than the regulation 90-foot space.
“One of the requests we’ve had, and it seems popular in other towns, is bocce ball ‘on the side,'” said Peterson. “The ‘pro’ bocce ball setup, people don’t use it, because it’s 90-feet long.”
In many towns, he said, residents have preferred a bocce court with a 60-foot length. The pickleball courts would be built to regulation size.
Proposals are being considered by subcommittees of both the council and school board. All agreed that the matter should be the subject of a public meeting before any decisions are made.
“This body, and the school board, both said before anything is finalized we would have a joint meeting with the public and get everybody’s input,” said Peterson.
“We’re going to consult with the public before we make any decision,” agreed Council President Matthew DeMichele.
Peterson said the subcommittee is not working on developing pricing estimates for various options so they can be presented to the public.