It took years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed Berkeley Island County Park to re-open but it finally did on May 23, thanks to the work of Ocean County Freeholder John Bartlett.

The popular Berkeley Island County Park on Brennan Concourse in Berkeley Township sustained catastrophic damage to its infrastructure and many of its amenities.

Portions of it washed away because of the storm.

"My colleagues and I on the Board of Freeholders understand that parks are of great importance for the community and a necessity for the health, well-being and enjoyment of our residents, families and friends," Bartlett said during the work phase of the park's redevelopment project. "The loss of Berkeley Island County Park five years ago affected many residents throughout Ocean County. When it's done it will be an improved facility with new enhancements that can be enjoyed by all."

The 25-acre site is near and dear to Bartlett as it was the first park he worked on when he became a Freeholder 39-years ago.

"This park, among all of our County parks, is one of the most near and dear to John," Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry Little said. "This park is representative of all of the effort and Freeholder Bartlett's staunch commitment to providing residents and visitors with the very best park facilities and open space."

As a result his colleagues on the board are paying the retiring Bartlett homage by re-naming the park in his honor.

"It is now the desire of this Board to honor the legacy of one of our most revered leaders by formally renaming Berkeley Island County Park as the new "John C. Bartlett Jr. County Park at Berkeley Island," states the Board resolution scheduled to be passed at the October 17 Freeholder Board meeting.

"There is no more fitting way to honor our colleague and our friend," Little said.

Bartlett announced in August that he will be retiring from his seat as Freeholder at the end of his term on December 31 following 39 consecutive years on the Board due to his ongoing struggles with health issues.

He made the difficult decision to step down at the end of the year.

"John is leaving an indelible mark on Ocean County, and has made this County a better place for all of its residents," Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari, who has served alongside Bartlett for 37 years, said.

Bartlett is the longest serving Freeholder in the state according to Ocean County officials and has championed the Ocean County Parks system, throughout his time on the Board, growing it to 27 different sites, including golf courses, dog parks, and active and passive recreational facilities.

The redevelopment of Berkeley Island County Park included the county's first splash/water park, which immediately became popular with park visitors.

During the redeveloped park's opening ceremony, Bartlett climbed onto the playground ropes and happily dashed around the water park in an effort not to get wet.

"He was undaunted by the damage and the potential problems with the redevelopment that lied ahead at that park," Ocean County Freeholder Jack Kelly said. "It speaks of his character, his determination and his love for our parks. He knew how much the park meant to the residents and he moved forward with its redevelopment no matter the challenges."

Bartlett was determined on bringing the park back from the devastation caused by the Superstorm Sandy.

"He wanted this park to be redeveloped and he wanted it to better and stronger than it was before," Freeholder Ginny Haines said. "He made certain all of that happened and now it will stand as a testimonial to his hard work and dedication to Ocean County."

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