What was previously a dusty parking lot to the west of Long Beach Boulevard, near Maryland Avenue in Beach Haven Terrace, has been transformed into Veterans Park for visitors to this bustling section of the municipality. As an engraving reads, the park is “Dedicated to all who served … and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
The branches of the military are also denoted, etched on the tops of stone walls that surround plantings in the middle of the square.
“We’re excited,” township Mayor Joseph Mancini said Monday as he surveyed the area. “It looks good, the neighbors are happy, and we’re honoring our veterans.
“Long Beach Township doesn’t have a town center,” he added, “so this is as close to one as there’s going to be.”
A number of businesses surround the park, on both sides of the Boulevard, and customers who visit the local eateries can now bring their coffee, baked goods, hoagies, ice cream – or a good book – to this polished and well-planted space, the latter courtesy of Reynolds Landscaping.
On Monday, two township public works employees were putting some finishing touches on a gazebo, and the mayor said still to come are benches, lights, and flags to fly from the three masts: the American flag, the state flag, and likely an alternating third flag, about which he intends to talk to the local VFW.
“It looks lovely, Joe!” a woman biking by called out to the mayor.
Neighbor Lonnie Burgess, meanwhile, exclaimed from the perimeter of the park, “I love it! Beautification! It looks great.
“It’s been nice to see people sitting here enjoying their coffee in the morning, and kids with their parents,” said Burgess, who has lived in the area for eight years. “It reminds me of New England.”
And, he pointed out, his cats, Ziggy and Marley, now have a much nicer view out their windows.
Patrons lining up on a summer morning for Marvel’s Bakery – just across a narrow road behind the park – also have a prettier place to wait, and to enjoy their purchases, whether doughnuts, cinnamon buns or sandwiches.
“You have to come here on a weekend and see the line,” said Marvel’s owner, Tony Agona, who pulled up a photo from the establishment’s Instagram page depicting the long queue for the bakery stretching down alongside the park.
Agona bought Marvel’s from original owner Tom Marvel in 1977, when the store was across the street, where Wawa now sits; in 2004, he moved to his current location, which, suddenly, and favorably, abuts a park.
“This whole area is becoming a hub,” Agona said as he offered up warm cinnamon sugar doughnuts.
The lot that now features the park was originally slated to become stores and apartments, but, Mancini explained, “we didn’t think the area could really handle any more density, so we decided to buy it and make it a park.
“We like to have more open space.”
The mayor, commissioners and township parks committee have in the past few years created and enhanced numerous recreational spots throughout the municipality’s 12 divided miles. And, on Nov. 7, the township will ask taxpayers to vote on an open space conservation referendum question that would increase the local property tax levy by 1 cent per $100 of assessed value to establish an open space trust fund.
As a municipal ordinance states, the township “continues to revitalize and preserve several areas of open space … for recreation and conservation purposes, and the Board of Commissioners has concluded that the continued acquisition and preservation of lands for recreation and parks; water resource and floodplain protection; environmental protection of wetlands, the watershed and wildlife habitat; and historic preservation purposes is of vital public importance and shall further contribute to the public health, welfare, and safety.”
A dedication for the new Veterans Park is planned, fittingly, for Veterans Day. —J.K.-H. The Sand Paper