High Tide

Monmouth County, N.J., is home to a varied county park system, which includes a number of waterfront areas. And, like the tides that ebb and flow along the county’s Seven President’s Oceanfront Park, the park system strives for balance.

Waterfront areas in Monmouth County include Seven President’s Oceanfront Park, Fisherman’s Cove Conservation Area, Shark River Park, Hartshorne Woods Park, Bayshore Waterfront Park, Henry Hudson Trail, Monmouth Cove Marina, Turkey Swamp Park and the Manasquan Reservoir.

Manasquan Reservoir and Seven President’s are supervised and programmed, representing the bulk of waterfront resources required to effectively manage these areas.

Both are in the midst of exciting, and at times challenging, development. Recreation use at Manasquan Reservoir is primarily boating and fishing. As a drinking water reservoir, it is off-limits to swimming. It has an environmental center and provides educational programming and various summer camps.

Shoreline to Shoreline

Seven President’s Oceanfront Park is a “typical” Memorial Day through Labor Day bathing beach with other incidental use, such as surfing, fishing, personal watercraft and small craft with staff there to supervise the use.

Beachfront programming and education is also a staple at Seven President’s, including Marine Scene, Shore Explorers, Nature Crafts by the Sea, and other programs for elementary school age children.

Dave Compton, superintendent of parks for the Monmouth County Park System, says, “We’ve seen attendance start to increase again, particularly since September 11, because people are staying closer to home and spending more family time together. At the same time we’re adding additional facilities to make it more of a day-use park with other amenities available.”

Previously, says Compton, attendance had declined, due in large part to the addition of beach areas in beachfront communities between Sandy Hook (part of Gateway National Recreation Area) and Seven President’s.

The new facilities and amenities include an in-ground concrete skatepark with an at-grade modular element, an in-line skating rink, a playground, a shelter with restrooms, a paved walking trail, improved parking and other facilities.

“We look for unique areas, like the beach operation, and then on those relatively small pieces of property we’re trying to provide day-use facilities that are accessible to people in urban areas,” adds Compton.

Compton relates that the new facilities will not come with a significantly larger staff. Instead, the park system will concentrate on maximizing current staff through park-wide rotation.

The park system emphasizes cross training and encourages staff to take advantage of fill-in opportunities throughout the system. This emphasis reaps benefits for the employees through potential overtime, education and training, and benefits the park system by forging a flexible staff.

“If you’re here long enough you’re definitely going to learn about a lot of different park areas, which makes employees more valuable to the system as a whole. We have a lot of special events in the different areas, which gives them experience in things like cross-country meets, the county fair, and any number of different activities throughout the year,” explains Mark Borchert, senior park manager for Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park.

“It’s a team approach, and most of the time someone will help you out when you need it. What goes around comes around is the motto. It works out well for everyone in the long run.”

Borchert says the park ranger’s position at Seven President’s is unique — as it is throughout the system — as they’re responsible for maintenance and law enforcement, and “everything in between.”

“It gives you more flexibility. If you see a problem you can act on it right away, rather than reporting it or waiting on someone to act on it,” explains Borchert. “It’s a time-saver, it’s more efficient and works well for us. We’re not getting any additional full-time positions, so having a flexible park ranger staff makes it work better.”

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