By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
A community recreation center tops the list of big-ticket projects in Sea Isle City’s new five-year capital plan, a sweeping blueprint for improvements to the beaches, bayfront, roads, Promenade and other parts of town.
Knowing that many families choose their vacation destination based on its pet-friendly reputation, Sea Isle is also planning to build its first dog park as a way to keep both the canines and their owners happy.
Approved by City Council on Tuesday, the capital plan proposes a total of $42.2 million in spending from 2020 to 2024, including water and sewer projects. However, Council will need to adopt funding ordinances in the future to finance individual projects.
In 2020, the city is proposing to spend a total of $6.7 million for capital improvements and another $3.2 million for upgrades to the water and sewer system, including well replacement and new underground pipes.
“It’s consistent with what we’ve been doing in the past several years. We’ve always been fairly ambitious in improving our infrastructure,” City Business Administrator George Savastano said of the capital plan in an interview.
A series of drainage and road projects are proposed throughout town to reduce flooding on the low-lying barrier island. Altogether, the city plans to spend nearly $3.9 million on road and drainage construction in 2020.
The city is also moving ahead with plans to redevelop the former Sea Isle public school site at 4501 Park Road into a community recreation facility. About $1 million will be spent in 2020 to design the project. The capital plan proposes $12 million in 2021 to build the recreation center.
The recreation center will not include an indoor swimming pool following community opposition to that part of the project. Residents and property owners voted overwhelmingly against having a pool during a ballot referendum and an online community survey on Nov. 5.
Sea Isle also plans to spruce up its beaches and bayfront with new projects. Among them, a beach replenishment project supervised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will add fresh sand to the storm-eroded shoreline in 2020. Sea Isle’s share of the project is expected to be around $1.7 million. Money has already been approved for beach replenishment, Savastano noted.
The capital plan includes $100,000 in 2020 to purchase more of the popular beach mats, which make it easier for senior citizens, disabled people and families with young children to walk across the deep sand.
City spokeswoman Katherine Custer said Sea Isle has completed plans to add the mats to virtually every beach in town. In 2020, the city will purchase more of the beach mats to make sure they remain in good shape, she explained.
In 2020, Sea Isle also plans to open a major project to enhance recreation along the bayfront – a new fishing pier and kayak launch site. A $935,605 grant from the Cape May County Open Space Board will pay for the project.
The fishing pier and kayak launch site will be built along the water’s edge behind the city’s Dealy Field athletic and recreation complex near 60th Street. Parking is already available at the site.
The boardwalk-style structure will extend 132 feet out into the bay. The center section will serve as the fishing pier. Another part will branch off for a “passive pier” featuring a covered pavilion. There will also be a dock for a handicap-accessible launch facility for kayaks and paddleboards.
The capital plan, meanwhile, also includes decorative lighting to brighten up the commercial areas of town along sections of Landis Avenue, Park Road and 63rd Street, Savastano said.
Sea Isle is already in the midst of adding decorative lights to the oceanfront Promenade between 35th and 44th streets. They will replace the Promenade’s existing unattractive streetlight-looking lights that are believed to be at least 40 years old.
There is also something new in the capital plan for Sea Isle’s four-legged residents. The city is planning to spend $200,000 to build its first dog park, although the site has not yet been selected.
Mayor Leonard Desiderio said he would like to have the dog park ready in 2020. He noted in an interview Tuesday that he is considering two possible locations for the project.
One possible site for a dog park currently serves as a parking lot on 42nd Place across from the city’s municipal marina, Desiderio said. It is known as the “clam shell parking lot” because it is covered with crushed white clam shells.
The parking lot’s location directly across from the bayfront marina makes it an attractive site. The property sits at the base of the John F. Kennedy Boulevard bridge, the main entryway into town.
The mayor also said the city will look into the possibility of locating the dog park in the north end of town, between Fifth and Eighth Streets on Landis Avenue. Two new parking lots were built in the same area this summer as part of a restriping plan to make the Landis Avenue corridor safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Without a place to call their own, dogs and their owners usually are walking along the streets and sidewalks in the summer for exercise. Dogs are not allowed on the beach during summer.
“It’s very important for people to have a place where they can take their dogs for a walk and it’s important for the dogs to have a place where they can play and frolic,” Desiderio said in an earlier interview about the city’s efforts to build a dog park.