HAZLET – The township’s 8th Street Park is a large flat patch of green between Brown and Central avenues in the West Keansburg section of town. It’s cherished by locals who think of it as their neighborhood secret.
The grass is cut regularly by the township, the park is generally tidy and there’s never any trouble here, residents say. But the basketball court pavement has developed cracks, the baseball diamond has permanent puddles and the playground is underwhelming. Parking is casual along the grassy perimeter. The general consensus is the park could use an update.
At its last meeting, Hazlet’s governing body authorized CME Associates to help prepare an engineering report for potential improvements to 8th Street Park, in preparation for the township’s application for funding from the Monmouth County Open Space Trust Fund. The township will hold a public hearing on the application on Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. at Town Hall.
“More swings for the kids would be great,” said Linda Lamberson, who has lived across from the park for 30 years and now goes there with her small grandchildren. Years ago there were several swings but they were removed and now only two remain, she said. “How about like some of the swings they have up by Veterans Park? They have all kinds of nice stuff up there. A few of those things over here would be really nice for the kids,” she said.
Her husband Richard recalled that there used to be Little League baseball and softball games at the park. He even once acquired a dent in his truck from a wayward ball. But except for a peewee team that came once recently and never returned, nobody has played a game there in several years.
There’s always water, said Andrew Natoli, who was playing fetch with his dog Annie in the grass. “Level it out,” said “Redo the baseball field so it’s level so people can come here and play softball, hardball.” An exercise enthusiast, he’d also love to see some pull-up bars or even a fitness trail with stations.
Another neighbor who faces the park, Bev Labasi, said that although the park is “well kept,” the playground equipment needs updates and the basketball court needs improvements. “It does get used though. I can tell you after school there’s usually a group of kids playing basketball,” she said. But it’s rare to see any kids on the playground. “In my opinion I think it’s become more of a dog park than a people park,” said Labasi, who owns two beagles herself.
Three kids hanging out at the swingset said some teenagers left graffiti in black marker on the inside of their yellow slide, where only they could see it. They said they wished the park had swings for bigger kids.
The county freeholder board has allocated $2 million to fund open space projects this year, to be used for parks, recreation or open space purposes. It pays up to 50 percent of eligible project costs. It is a competitive program and the deadline to apply is Sept. 19.
The last time Hazlet was awarded a matching grant was in 2016, when the township received $200,000 for a Natco Lake Park environmental and restroom building. At the Aug. 6 meeting, the Township Committee authorized the clerk to advertise for bids for a prefabricated building which would be located off Middle Road, west of the entrance to Raritan High School.