The Monmouth Conservation Foundation is pleased to announce the preservation of a 14-acre waterfront site to become Monmouth County’s newest Park
Middletown - Over a decade ago, the Monmouth Conservation Foundation began working to preserve Chris’ River Plaza Marina, located on West Front Street in the River Plaza section of Middletown. After many years of complex negotiations, MCF is happy to announce that the well-known site will soon be acquired and ultimately transformed into a new Monmouth County Park, called the Swimming River Park, that will be within walking distance to many Red Bank and Middletown residents.
Chris’ River Plaza Marina has been a local landmark to the River Plaza section of Middletown and has long served as a de-facto park for local residents and small boat enthusiasts. Locals often reminisce about using the site to watch Red Bank’s once famous Fourth of July fireworks, families launched small watercraft, canoes or kayaks to enjoy a day on the river in the summer months, and in the winter children spent their school snow days, snow sledding on the steep river bank.
Judith Stanley-Coleman, co-founder and long-time president of the Foundation, envisioned the property as an opportunity to bring open space and water amenities to an otherwise underserved neighborhood. With a potential to yield twenty plus townhomes, West Front Street, an already busy thoroughfare leading into the Borough of Red Bank, would have become even more congested with the additional traffic that increased infrastructure would bring.
The long-time vision of the Foundation only became a reality when the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders agreed to purchase the property as an addition to the Monmouth County Park System’s Swimming River Greenway. “The preservation of this property is an important location and rare opportunity to purchase a park that will be particularly accessible by bike and foot to many Monmouth County residents,” remarked Freeholder Lillian G. Burry, Freeholder liaison to the Monmouth County Parks System and member of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation Advisory Council.
The Monmouth County Park System and MCF partnered to purchase the land for $3,810,000. MCF contributed $200,000 towards the project including a $100,000 Green Acres grant to the Foundation. “This was a collaborative effort between the County of Monmouth and the Monmouth Conservation Foundation. This couldn’t have been accomplished without this partnership between non-profit and government entities,” said Freeholder Thomas A. Arnone.
The property is situated at the confluence of the Navesink and Swimming Rivers. The upstream component of the Swimming River, has a Category 1 designation to prevent water quality degradation and discourages development where it would impair or destroy natural resources and water quality, and flows into the County’s critical water resource, the Swimming River Reservoir. The waterways and their wetlands create habitat for native and endangered marine, estuarine, avian and insect species forced by development into scarce remaining open space, water, and coastlands. Permanent protection of the site ensures that the natural habitat are better protected, allowing them to also be enjoyed by the community.
The property will need to undergo significant environmental clean-up and restoration. Once completed within two to three years, this property will become the site of a newest County park providing passive waterfront recreational opportunities – complete with parking (including boat trailers), and improved boat launch ramp and sledding hill – for the public to enjoy. Other amenities are planned as well. For the time being, and until the site work begins, the County plans to continue to allow boat launching. Hours and ramp fees are posted on the Park System’s web site at monmouthcountyparks.com.
Monmouth Conservation Foundation, founded in 1977 by Michael Huber and Judith Stanley-Coleman as a 501(c)(3), is an accredited land trust dedicated to preserving open space and farmland in Monmouth County.
MCF has directly preserved more than 6,500 acres while collaboratively preserving 16,000 acres throughout Monmouth County. MCF remains steadfast in its mission of saving invaluable farmland and open space, protecting waterways, preserving ecosystems, creating and/or extending parks and greenways for the past 38 years.