BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Bridgewater Township is moving forward with bike paths and other future development at the 100-acre Camp Cromwell site.
Bridgewater Township approved the purchase of the site, on Vosseller Avenue, in March 2017. The Boys Club of New York had previously owned the property since 1985.
The cost of the purchase was $7.5 million, and $6.5 million of that was being paid for by the Somerset County Improvement Authority. The remaining $1.5 million was being paid for from the township’s Open Space Trust Fund.
After a solid discussion that night, the municipal governing body ultimately approved the submission of a grant application for $279,565 with the state’s Department of Transportation for the Camp Cromwell Bike Path, under the auspices of the DOT’s 2019 Bikeways Program.
Kristen Schiro, Bridgewater Township's director of health and human services, presented proposed plans for the property and an update on its status.
A 16-member resident committee had been previously utilized to discuss those plans, including recreational opportunities. The goal was to get the property open and to allow residents to have access to it, through the first phase of the project that has been labeled as “passive work.”
Bridgewater Mayor Daniel Hayes added during the presentation that the township wants to install a hard scape surface for the main path, which would be accessible to all residents.
“It’s a unique opportunity to acquire a once-in-a-lifetime property,” said Hayes of Camp Cromwell as a whole. “We didn’t want to pass it up.”
Schiro said that accomplishments so far for Camp Cromwell have included meeting with ad hoc committees, explaining grant opportunities, conducting onsite meetings to explore ideas and applying for a very competitive grant for the first time.
She reiterated that Phase One of the project is to open the property to Bridgewater residents by the spring of 2019.
Schiro said there is a nature trail located on the property, approximately 2 miles long, that could be used for scouting, biking and hiking. The trail itself also connects to several points of interest, including the Middle Brook Trail, Chimney Rock Park and Crim School.
Schiro added that the trail, which would be all natural, could be handled by the township’s parks department in the off-season.
“It will be a very natural trail,” she said.
A paved asphalt trail in the interior of the park will be grant-funded, and will also connect to the nature trail. This paved trail will be open to people of all ages, including bicyclists, in-line skaters, individuals with wheelchairs and families with strollers.
The paved trail could also be used during inclement weather, and there would be fitness stations situated along it for people to use as areas for stretching and calisthenics.
The construction of the trail is why the township needed to submit the grant application to the DOT for $279,565, with an application deadline of Oct. 5.
The Camp Cromwell project could also feature an existing indoor gymnasium, including a basketball court, which was said to be in excellent shape and could be utilized as a revenue source through facility rentals. The gym also features exterior restrooms that could be used by the public.
Schiro said she has done a trail walk with Rick Lathrop, the director of the Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis at Rutgers University, who led the mapping of the trail. The project as a whole also calls for the demolition of a number of unusable structures on the property, many that had been part of a former sleep-away camp, including barns, cabins, classrooms, a staff cottage and the caretaker’s house.
Existing storage facilities on the property will be spared, to be utilized for the keeping and maintenance of tools and equipment.
Gravel parking lots also need to be built, Schiro said. She said the proposal is for two lots, one with 100 parking spaces, and a second with 75 spaces. The property also needs to be cleaned of fallen trees, high grass and weeds, which the parks department plans to take care of in the off-season.
In addition, dusk-to-dawn lighting will also be installed, to ensure safe walking pathways.
Cost estimates for the Phase One demolition range from $251,700 to $280,500, depending upon if the job is done solely by the parks department, or if it is instead farmed out to a contractor. The 75-space parking lot will supposedly cost $81,523, while the 100-space lot will cost $98,427.
There will also be $30,000 in costs for recreation amenities.
Councilman Howard Norgalis asked about the cost of demolition/removals, and Schiro responded that the DOT grant could only be used for the proposed paved trail/bicycle pathway. She later said the asphalt trail likely won't be completed by the spring, and that it is difficult to say when it will actually be done.
Schiro explained that the nature trail is already in existence, but needs to have some work performed.
Council vice president Matthew Moench mentioned he was trying to understand the timeline for the project, including the demolitions. Township administrator James Naples said that parks staff will work on the natural trail over the winter, which he added is not an extremely busy time of year, while they concurrently work on the asphalt trail, assuming the DOT grant is acquired.
Bid documents will need to be prepared regarding the demolitions. The demolitions will be funded through the Open Space Trust Fund, along with the gravel parking lots.
Concerning cost projections for the gym, Naples said they will be minimal, primarily for lighting, along with perhaps volunteers and coaches. Basketball played in the gym could be run as part of the township’s current basketball program.
Councilman Filipe Pedroso asked about the total cost for Phase One, and Schiro replied that although there have been some estimates garnered, bids still have to go out for the demolitions, whether they will be handled by a contractor alone or by a contractor working with the parks department. The demolitions will also occur with or without the DOT grant, along with the construction of the parking lots.
“We always intended to do the demolition,” Hayes said.
Councilman Allen Kurdyla reiterated that open space could be used for part of the funding, while the council itself voted on whether or not to apply for the grant for the paved trail.
“It’s a good direction to be heading,” he said of the project.
Pedroso also asked about revenue studies for the gym, and Hayes said they are being worked on. Council president Christine Henderson Rose said the town used to lease the facility from the Boys Club, and old town records could be consulted regarding those costs.
Moench, who said he regularly fielded questions from his constituents about the Camp Cromwell project, inquired about Phases Two and Three. Schiro replied that there is no established timeline yet for the completion of those segments.
“It’s going to be a fantastic asset to the community,” said Hayes. “We want to get it right.”
Pedroso asked if the man hours required to do the work have been calculated. Naples said he could get an estimate, and added it had been confirmed that there was sufficient municipal manpower.
“When they’re not working on other parks, they’ll be working here (at Camp Cromwell),” he said.
Rose said the township is excited about the future of the property.
“We look forward to future updates,” she said. “”I’m excited about the potential.”