BERKELEY – The old roller hockey rink is gone from Dudley Park, and in its place will be beach volleyball courts, bocce, a basketball court and a new playground.
Officials described an aging park where the roller hockey rink was left in dangerous condition over time, and that Dudley Park was in need of upgrades. The park has a swimming beach, picnic grounds, playground and a connection to the county rail trail, and sits off Route 9 at the border of Cedar Creek and Lacey.
“The rink there was really dangerous. The board was separating. The floor was cracked. It needed to be torn down. It was very, very hazardous” said Councilman Angelo Guadagno. The playing surface, its boards, scoreboard, bleachers, fencing and more were all demolished and recycled if possible. The land has been leveled and cleared so that a beach volleyball court could be added there along with other amenities.
While the township now has no roller hockey rink, Berkeley officials said the Lacey roller hockey organization has welcomed Berkeley residents to join its league.
“Dudley Park is one of our oldest parks, and it really needed some sprucing up,” said Mayor Carmen Amato. “The roller hockey rink in Dudley was not maintained well over the years. Unfortunately it was damaged during Superstorm Sandy to essentially beyond repair.”
Guadagno, who is on the parks and recreation committee, said originally they looked at repairing the rink after Sandy, but the cost was prohibitive. “Plus there always remained a risk of it flooding again with the creek there,” he said. They then discussed removing it, but wanted to add something that didn’t exist elsewhere in the township park system and would complement the wooded, creekside nature of Dudley.
“So I recommended we tear down the roller hockey rink, and it was a tough decision,” Guadagno said. The ideas were presented briefly last year in Guadagno’s comments during a council meeting, and were formally revealed at the late March council meeting.
Two beach volleyball courts, a horseshoe pit, bocce ball, half-court basketball and a new playground is planned for Dudley Park. Guadagno circulated some designs of the project at the last council meeting, showing the architectural plans.
“It will have a beautiful new playground on the side where the roller hockey was,” he said. “There were still be the other playground there on the other side of Dudley.”
The demolition work and recycling was done in-house, with the lights that were there going elsewhere in the park system, Guadagno said. Installing the beach volleyball and bocce courts will also be done by township staff, saving some money.
Amato said the project will be paid for in part through FEMA funding, since the park was damaged during Sandy. The cost of the playground portion is about $90,000, “however, because we filed with FEMA, they will reimburse the township up to 90 percent of the cost of the playground, and if you remember a couple months ago Gov. Christie freed up additional funds through the Department of Community Affairs, to get 10 percent reimbursed,” said the mayor.
Amato said that means the township could end up paying that 10 percent if it doesn’t get approved under DCA reimbursement, but if it is approved the project would come at no cost.
He credited the help of the township beach and public works department with completing much of the work.
The councilman hopes these improvements will restore the luster to Dudley. “It’s been called a hidden gem and I think these changes will be great for Dudley. We’ve got the creek there, a lot of people head down there to enjoy it, go there to the creek with their families.”
Councilman John Bacchione asked the possibility of improvements to the creek there, citing the shallow nature as a possible dredging project. “You can just about get your knees wet,” he said.
Guadagno said the shallow creek makes it a safe swimming hole, but he’d like to see further improvements to the creek conditions, though that is farther off since such projects need state permits, said the township engineer.
“It’s going to be a gem, not a hidden gem anymore,” Guadagno said.