Berkeley Island County Park rebuilt, more inviting and resilient than ever

A New Jersey park devastated by Hurricane Sandy has been resurrected with new amenities and strategies to protect against future disasters, with award-winning results.

A community centerpiece and primary recreation area for the region, Berkeley Island County Park has provided residents and visitors with access to, and sweeping views of, Barnegat Bay in coastal New Jersey since the 1930’s.

Now, seven years after Hurricane Sandy devastated the waterfront facility, the park has reopened with a new life and a new name.

The strongest, most destructive storm of 2012 swept up the Atlantic coast before finally moving ashore at Brigantine, New Jersey, just 50 miles south of Berkeley Township and its signature park. Sustained winds of over 80 miles per hour wreaked havoc on the area, battering the park’s facilities and the peninsula on which it’s situated.

“The park was damaged primarily due to the storm surge that completely overtopped and undermined the park,” said Richard Law, project manager for the WSP USA program and construction management team. “Much of the damage occurred when the water receded, since the original shoreline protective measures accounted for incoming storms but not the receding water, which undermined the revetment, walkways and structures.”

Critical damage and serious safety issues rendered the park unusable, and it was closed to the public.

“The pier, building structures including the restrooms, and utility services were severely damaged,” Law added. “Significant shoreline was lost, the parking lot eroded, and the entrance road was partially washed out.”

Recognizing the need to return the treasured local asset to the community, the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation and Board of Chosen Freeholders set to the task of reclaiming the parkland lost to the bay, securing funding, and procuring design and construction services to rebuild and modernize the open space resource.

Progress, however, was not without its trials.

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©WSP USA/RICHARD LAW

One of the features that needed an upgrade was the park’s fishing pier; as it was seen before restoration (left), and afterward (right).

Surmounting Obstacles

Reacquisition of the submerged land from the state, the necessity of identifying alternative funding sources, and a rigorous environmental permitting process all contributed to a protracted rebuilding timeframe.

Ultimately, funding was obtained from the State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the form of grant reimbursement for mitigation. And while regulatory permitting was extensive and demanding, close interaction with DEP and the Army Corps of Engineers through the process led to successful compliance.

WSP provided a pre-bid review of the drawings, assisted with the bidding process and served as the construction manager through completion of the construction phase.

Once in construction, harsh winter weather presented further obstacles.

“Due to the configuration and location of the park, it was fully exposed to the open water conditions in this wide section of Barnegat Bay,” Law said. “During construction, four significant storms caused further damage while the park was being reconstructed.”

The extreme cold and windy conditions impacted the newly installed “living shoreline element” and resulted in the freezing of the bay, causing ice to climb the inclined concrete revetment on the eastern shore, damaging the new railing.

These successive challenges, and mounting disappointment at the park’s long closure, led to public scrutiny of the rebuild process. Media attention was acute and public sentiment turned from excitement to impatience, until the project’s completion came into view.

“We understood the environment and were proactively working with the contractor and client to monitor progress, schedule and quality,” Law said. “The work progressed during the cold and windy winter months, but the work sequence had to be modified for the work to continue.”

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©PHOTO COURTESY OF OSPREY PERSPECTIVES

The park design incorporated an engineered living shoreline that simulates a natural environment, but benefits from enhanced shoreline stabilization.

A Resilient Park for a Resilient Community

Underlying the entire rebuilding process was a recognition that an extremely intense weather event like the one that occasioned the park’s destruction is increasing likely to happen again.

As such, a variety of strategies were implemented to enhance the resilience of the shoreline, park and associated facilities to such events.

“The design team at T&M incorporated design features to strengthen the facility against future storm damage, and ensure provisions were installed for ease of maintenance, future upgrades and for yearly winterization,” Law said.

The former park sat only a few feet above the bay. Dredged materials were reused on the project to raise the park’s elevation and create stone revetments to protect the entirety of the northern shore, as well as the park’s amenities against storm surge. The comfort station was constructed on piles above the flood elevation.

A new breakwater structure was installed to protect the northern shore, and the south shore breakwater structure was modified using timber sheeting, geotextile, gravel, riprap and capstones to further minimize erosion.

The timber bulkhead was replaced with a new heavy gage steel bulkhead and the walkway adjacent to the bulkhead and revetment was changed from asphalt to concrete. The pier was completely reconstructed, including provisions for strengthening the structure.

Notably, the design also incorporated an engineered living shoreline that simulates a natural environment but benefits from enhanced shoreline stabilization. The innovative and sustainable solution integrates native flora plantings, improves water quality through runoff capture, and establishes habitats for shellfish, fish, birds and mammals.

“The living shoreline element helps withstand the unique and harsh environmental conditions at this site and restore the south shore,” Law said. “It contains a timber bulkhead core, which has openings of varying width and spacing to allow for a daily exchange of water with the tide cycles.”

Together, these strategies equip the entire park facility and the peninsula to better handle the storms that will inevitably come, and provide a strong foundation for a resilient future.

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©WSP USA/RICHARD LAW

The East Revetment section of the park, as seen at the start of restoration (left), and after completion of the walkway around that section of the island (right).

New Life, New Namesake

The rehabilitated—and now Americas with Disabilities Act-compliant—park boasts numerous amenities, including the reinforced 100-foot-long fishing pier, comfort station building, gazebos, pavilion with charcoal grill, playground, horseshoe pits, bocce ball courts, beach and outdoor shower, bike racks, flag pole and native landscaping.

Additionally, the County’s first water spray park was introduced at Berkeley Island, to determine if its application can be replicated at other regional parks.

To support safety and park operation, a new access road with guard rail, entrance gate, security fencing and security crash gate, roadway striping and signage, and parking lot and park lighting were installed. New utility service connections include a water main, underground electrical and data services and fire hydrants.

Due to close and effective collaboration among the project team, county and state leaders, federal and regulatory agencies and the community, the project opened in time for Memorial Day Weekend 2018 to the delight of the public.

Perhaps no one was more delighted to see the reincarnation of the park than New Jersey’s longest-serving freeholder, John C. Bartlett Jr., for whom the park was renamed after his passing in December.

Bartlett is credited with founding Ocean County’s modern park system and he was instrumental in advancing the Berkeley Island rebuild project. He presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony on opening day and its dedication recognizes his long-standing service to the community.

Engineering News Record-New York has selected the John C. Bartlett, Jr. County Park at Berkeley Island reconstruction project as its 2019 Regional Best Project in the Small Project Category for innovation, quality, functionality, aesthetic and teamwork. The award will be presented at an Oct. 2 awards breakfast at Edison Ballroom in Manhattan.

Law praised his WSP team for their dedication to making the project an award-winner, including Joseph Cadillac, project director; James Breen, project superintendent; Bruce Lockwood, project inspector; Bethany Bearmore, civil and coastal engineering manager; and Matthew Holthaus, civil and environmental engineer.

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©PHOTO COURTESY OF OSPREY PERSPECTIVES

The park was selected by Engineering News Record-New York as its 2019 Regional Best Project in the Small Project Category.

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