Improve Parks First

Sep 13, 2017

To the Editor:

An article (“Beach Haven Mayor Touts Open Space, New Floating Dock,” 8/16) centers on the mayor’s plan to again ask the voters to approve an additional tax on their property to fund some future purchase of open space if it becomes available. The voters did not support the mayor’s last appeal for this new tax, thus another vote was requested by the mayor.

Before serious consideration may be given on whether to support the mayor, Beach Haven taxpayers should evaluate how the new tax will impact them financially, and how the parks are currently utilized and maintained by the borough. Parks are a big expense, said the mayor at a “Meet the Mayor” meeting to a question as to why Beach Haven taxes are 20 percent higher than the township. The mayor explained that the borough has more parks for fewer people than the township, and parks are expensive to maintain.

Parks are expensive to maintain and, in this real estate market, are very expensive to purchase. The illustration provided by the mayor indicated that a property assessed at $600,000 would only have a new additional $60 annual tax burden. That is true for a property with a $600,000 assessment, but the average assessment for a Beach Haven business or residential property is closer to $1 million, so the mayor’s new tax would be more like an additional $100 on average for each property owner.

I cannot recall any tax that has not risen. Should the voters support the mayor’s plan, Beach Haven will collect an additional $210,000 in new taxes next year and every year in the future.

Rather than collect a new tax for future park locations, the borough might consider what the current parks provide and how they are maintained. In my view, Beach Haven parks are better viewed as fields, not parks. Parks, by definition, are places with recreation areas, shaded seating, walkways that invite an enjoyable trip to a specific place where one might want to spend time relaxing. You can visit one of these parks across from the Long Beach Township municipal building. There is a bay beach, entertainment area, a place to picnic, a shaded area to relax, food available and other facilities. Families can spend a whole day there.

The recently opened Veterans Park is also a great example of the township’s park plan. I would suggest that while Beach Haven has more parks per resident, the township has more inviting parks albeit fewer per resident.

Beach Haven parks are open fields that provide space for craft fairs and other events, parking for storm challenges, a seldom-used ball field (a place only used for festivals) and the former skating rink, now a pickleball area. Sure, there are tennis courts, two children’s play areas, a basketball court, a bocce ball court and a dog beach, but they are different areas that do not provide synergy.

Visit the Taylor Avenue park any day or night and see people walking on the sidewalk around the park, as there is no place to sit, no shaded areas, no plantings, no inviting walkways through the park and little to enjoy with their eyes. The facilities offered are restrooms at Taylor, Nelson, and Walsh fields. The Walsh field prefab restroom is the only restroom with adequate ventilation; all others have small home fans that also provide little light.

The Taylor Avenue facility has windows so low that anyone over 5 feet has a direct view of the interior of the men’s and ladies’ rooms. The men’s room door, when opened, provides no privacy to the urinal. This is also a concern at Nelson Avenue: low windows, no stall door, no lock and the water fountain casts a stream 6 feet high. Some bathroom floors are painted plywood and the paint is worn through.  While new paint can be applied, how can a wood floor be thoroughly cleaned? It might also be advisable to replace the formerly white toilet seat that is now a dark shade of green-brown.

The new tax, a total of $210,000, is based on the value of all assessed properties found in the 2016 financial report. While the new tax is considerable, one might look to the water tax surplus for 2016, which was $354,643. Read the water utility budget, page 58, in the 2016 Beach Haven financial report. The Beach Haven water utility budget planned to receive $1,796,000. Residents actually paid $2,109,966, and utility expenses were under plan another $40,677, making the total surplus $354,643 for 2016. Residents may conclude that a reduction of the water tax might be considered or that the money may be better spent on road repairs or on a yet to be found park site.

I suggest before we monetize future park sites, the borough consider a plan to make the existing sites better maintained and more inviting. It is possible to do this with imagination, planning and with money already being spent on other areas.

Howard Buerkle

Beach Haven

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