A new theme-oriented children's playground has become the crown jewel in a major redevelopment of a little used recreational resource in the Borough of Seaside Heights, N.J.
Long known for its famed boardwalk and white sand of the Atlantic Ocean beach, Seaside Heights has made a concerted effort over the past few years to develop its Back Bay waterfront. This little-used area is now being transformed into a family-friendly recreation center.
There are small rental rowboats available for fishing, new and renovated municipal piers are available for catching the ubiquitous blue claw crab and tons of fine beach sand has been trucked in to produce a shallow safe bathing beach for mothers and children. A concession stand selling hot dogs, hamburgers, french-fries, Italian ices, cold drinks and other snacks is open daily during the hot summer months. It is the new playground however, that is attracting rave reviews.
Thanks to a grant from the Community Development Block Grant Program, the Borough has just finished installing a one-of-a-kind playground. The playground was purchased from GameTime Recreation and installed by Whirl Construction. The special sails were made for this playground by Custom Fabricators, a New York-based company.
The Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) was the principal source of federal funding for community development services. CDBG provides eligible metropolitan cities and urban counties (called entitlement communities) with annual direct grants that can be used to revitalize neighborhoods, expand affordable housing and economic opportunities, and/or improve community facilities and services, principally to benefit low and moderate-income persons.
Seaside Heights is a popular summer resort that borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Barnegat Bay to the west. It is a community of 3,100 year-round residents but expands to more than 30 thousand in the summer.
It's a compact town—almost a mile long and a third of a mile wide with everything within walking distance. And it is conveniently located for day-trippers from New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City. Seaside Heights is approximately one hour away from these cities, while 50 million people who live within a three-hour drive time of Seaside Heights. In the course of the summer season, population swells to 25 thousand during the week and 30-40 thousand welcome visitors on the weekends.
Seaside Heights is an example of a small beach community, only .3 miles square, with a maximum stroll of four blocks from the ocean to bay front beaches. This friendly beach community on the Barnegat Peninsula in Ocean County offers wonderful sites, scenes, and activities for people of all ages and interests. Seaside Heights is magnetic, from its beautiful beaches and its mile-long boardwalk filled with many attractions to its magnificent sunrises and sunsets.
Community-sponsored events are ongoing. Its Business Improvement District is committed to making the town diverse and walkable, as evidenced by the many family- and visitor-friendly events. These include free admission to the beach on Wednesday and Thursday, a busy boardwalk and weekend events (see schedule at www.seasideheightstourism.com/events.asp). There are also special activities of arts and crafts, sand sculpting and kite flying, just to name a few.
In the 1900s, a land development company began a campaign to entice Philadelphia-area residents to build summer homes in Seaside Heights. >From 1909 and for several years thereafter, the company offered train trips to the area, where land costs were quite reasonable ($100 for a 40-foot beachfront lot), and the ocean air was invigorating. The combination was irresistible, and the area burgeoned. In 1913, Seaside Heights was incorporated as a borough. That year, investor-manufacturer Christian Hiering established the Barnegat Power and Cold Storage Company, which brought electricity to the small community.
By 1915, it was well along the way to becoming New Jersey's "Family Fun and Sun Resort." It had two new hotels, and the Seaside Heights Amusement Company had plans to build a theater and carousel, along with billiard, pool and shuffleboard rooms. An amusement park had recently opened between Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. In late 1915, the first toll bridge was opened across Barnegat Bay, linking the peninsula to the New Jersey mainland. Visitors to the area no longer had to travel there by boat or train.
From 1917, and for four years thereafter, the first three blocks of the boardwalk were built. A major fire in 1955 destroyed it and its many amusements.
Today, thousands of visitors stroll along the rebuilt and lengthened (to one mile) boardwalk with bigger and more sophisticated rides. But the bay area seemed to be the stepchild. The opportunity for tourists and locals alike to enjoy the “quiet” side of town, with its magnificent sunsets and safe water beach was a secret to just a few. To enhance the area, a playground study committee was formed and set about to have this playground be like no other in the area. The $70 thousand grant for the playground was then put in effect to improve this property, and thanks to Ron Nowak’s creative mind, the idea of the sails was born. He contacted Kevin Killmeier at the New York based company, Custom Fabricators and they designed, built and installed the sails.
The committee consisted of residents, businessmen and elected officials and borough employees. Robert Giles, at that time a Seaside Heights Councilman and Council Rep to the CDBG Program; Fran Yannacone, Borough employee and CDBG program coordinator; Councilwomen Arleen Ottorson; Councilman Tom Yannacone; Betsey Arnold, Municipal Clerk and property owner in the borough of Seaside Heights, got together. Guy Mazzanti, property owner and businessman at the Bay front, location of the playground, along with Steve Healy, Bay front businessman; Lillian Roberts, resident and Maria Maruca, Executive Director of the Seaside Heights Business Improvement District joined in the group.
Meetings started in the winter of 2002 and were held weekly until the final design was agreed upon. The colors of red, white and blue make for an outstanding, subtle patriotic statement.