After undergoing a total makeover over the winter and spring, Project Playground in Barnegat Township will be holding a grand opening for its new-look facility on Saturday, May 27, at 11 a.m. Located near the high school off Bengal Boulevard, the 1.5-acre park has been off-limits to the public since late last fall.

“Our goal was to have it reopen by Memorial Day weekend,” said Mayor Albert Bille. “There is still some concrete work to be done, but we’ll be all ready to go for that Saturday.”

Bille said that all the township committee members would be present, but said don’t expect to hear a lot of speeches.

“It’s not about us, it’s about the kids,” said Bille. “We’re going to have special give-aways for the children.”

It was in September 2006 when Project Playground first opened, with attractions including a pirate ship, miniature lighthouse, gazebo with a 5-foot-tall model of Barnegat Lighthouse on top, sand castle, tree house, amphitheater and a variety of swings and slides. The park was initially established by a volunteer group, which subsequently turned it over to the township.

But Bille said many of the features deteriorated from the elements.

“That’s because it was all made of wood, which rotted out over time,” said the mayor. “Everything has been replaced by equipment that is made of much more durable material. We also had problems with vandalism. We have security cameras installed so we can hopefully deter that from happening.”

Bille said the project cost approximately $280,000. He said the township committee had the playground in mind when it adopted a $5.5 million bond ordinance in late 2015 for numerous improvements.

“We would have liked to have started the project earlier last fall, but that would have meant purchasing the equipment during the summer, when those items are a lot more expensive,” he said. “We did the right thing by waiting for the prices to come down.”

Jean Broadbent, township recreation director, said the playground is suited for ages 2 to 12. She said there would be two play structures featuring swings, slides and climbing elements.

“One will be for children ages 2 to 5 and the other ages 6 to 12,” said Broadbent.

She said one of the new features is a gazebo, which could be used for birthday parties or other special events.

“We’ve replaced the wood mulch with rubber mulch,” said Broadbent. “It’s going to be a real family-friendly place.”

Bille said with the playground done, the next step will be to repair “pocket parks,” small play areas located in residential neighborhoods.

“They have been in a state of disrepair for years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of work to do, but I’m glad now that we have a good handle on it.”

— Eric Englund, The SandPaper