Tag Archives: DeNormandie park

Fair Haven: DeNormandie Park Stalled

There’s been a bit of a delay in bringing one long-awaited passive riverfront park to Fair Haven.

That park is the one slated for the foot of DeNormandie Avenue where the historic Williams/Robards estate sat until April.

After its demolition then, officials figured it wouldn’t take all that long to clear the lot of demolition debris and unhealthy trees before the landscaping plans started to take hold.

Then there was an unforeseen shortage of help in the borough’s Department of Public Works to bring that (clearing and leveling) phase of project to a timely fruition.

“DPW was a little off track on the progress with the park,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. “The reason for that was that they have been short on help in the department. There have since been new hires, so they should be able to get back on track.”

In the meantime, people are free to stroll onto the beach by the river there and, when the fencing is removed, they may walk on the property that will eventually house the passive park.

The mayor went on to say that the landscaping plan is well in the works and its implementation will soon follow with the tree removal, turfing and then landscape architecture and finishing touches.

All told, the mayor said, it will realistically take up to another two years to see the completed park with finishing touches.

“We have to wait for the next grant cycle,” Lucarelli said. “We will probably go for a Monmouth County Open Space Grant. We have to close out other grants first and make certain there’s nothing else in the works. If we decide that this project is a priority for the next cycle, it could be done by next spring or so.

“If we get in on the next cycle, it would be another year. But that would be for the full flushing out of the park and all the amenities (such as the landscaping, benches, walkways). The trees (that the arborist decides may be taken) will come down next. It’s clear enough to take a walk on for now and enjoy, though.”

That final phase of  the plan will include a plaque commemorating the significance of Williams family and its Robards descendants and the site.

Charles Williams, a freed African-American slave, built the house on the land that was deeded to him and his family.

Winifred Robards, the last in the family line to live in the home that fronted the Navesink River, was known to invite children to play on her property. She told many that she wanted them to enjoy the riverfront location and it was her wish that the land, when she left, be preserved with public access for all to enjoy.

Taxpayers contributed roughly $200,000 to the acquisition of the $1.2 million swath of land. The remainder of the money to purchase it came from state, county and non-profit grants — all of which were contingent upon a commitment to eternally preserve the land as open space.

— Elaine Van Develde/photos and story

Fair Haven: Poised for a Park


By Elaine Van Develde

The Fair Haven house that Charles Williams built is gone.

But the historic significance of the freed African-American slave’s family homestead at the foot of DeNormandie Avenue has not been forgotten as the borough preps the swath of Navesink riverfront property for it’s new life as a park.

Fair Haven officials have said all along that once the transformation to passive recreation park takes hold, a plaque commemorating the Williams family and its Robards descendants will be anchored on the site. The plaque will include a brief history of the land’s significance.

For now, though, getting set for some major landscaping is the priority.

“The DPW is finishing up with clearing the property of any remaining bits of debris from the demolition,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli said. “The borough’s arborist has assessed the trees on the property and made a determination of which can be cut down and which must be saved. Becker Tree Service, which has a contract with the borough, will soon remove the trees that cannot be saved.”

After that, the property will be readied for turf and landscaping.

Taxpayers contributed roughly $200,000 to the acquisition of the $1.2 million plat. The remainder of the money to purchase it came from state, county and non-profit grants — all of which were contingent upon a commitment to eternally preserve the land as open space.

Take a look at the above slideshow for a glimpse into the property’s history, from borough acquisition to the home’s demolition.

— Photos and slideshow/Elaine Van Develde