The shovels officially dive into the dirt, and folks who've missed Berkeley Island County Park since Superstorm Sandy can expect to return in about a year - with some brand-new elements to heighten the excitement.

Questions swirled around Ocean County of, not when, but if the park would be re-opened following the destruction of 2012, but last week's groundbreaking left no doubt.

"This small as it is, had a great following," said Freeholder John Bartlett Jr., parks and recreation liaison. "People have been very upset that it's taken so long for us to rebuild it."

He adds that a sizable portion of the land washed away, and  "we had to receive state permission and permits to reclaim and rebuild our own land."

Shrinking FEMA reimbursements forced a slow, cautious approach to the estimated $8,000,000 price tag. Taxpayers will foot part of the bill.

"I think all told we'll probably be able to capture...$1,500,000 of other peoples' funds," said Bartlett who is also in charge of county finances. "Public construction is terribly expensive, and if you're going to do it (build the park), do it right, and it will last 30-35 years."

It won't be an overpowering burden to taxpayers, he adds, because they build these type of expenses into their budget, and the tax base has slowly built back up since Sandy hit.

"Berkeley Island will look much like the way it did before Hurricane Sandy," said Bartlett. However, he has worked some new, family-friendly features into the redesign.

"The park will have picnic areas and the fishing pier will be restored," said Bartlett. "We're going to have a new feature here, which will be a kids 'splash park,' and is activated by running through it and the sensors will then go off, water will squirt out at kids and they'll just have a grand time."

Bartlett feels the park will thrive once opened, and could set a precedent for other possible parks to open up within the county.

Other new features inside the park will include a public restroom, topped by a cupola.

"Every cupola has to have a weather vane, and since Ocean County's insignia is the sailboat...the weather vane will be a sailboat," said Bartlett.


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