Is it open or not?

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Township says gates are locked, but residents allowed in Rio Grande site

MIDDLE TOWNSHIP – An official said this week that the undeveloped Ockie Wisting Park in Rio Grande is open, but a civic organization indicated that it didn’t look that way.

In an emailed newsletter sent out Sunday, the Middle Township Taxpayers Association said that the gate to the planned recreation park at Fulling Mill Road has been locked, so the site isn’t open.

Township officials say it is, but not to vehicles.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a sign there that said it was closed. But there is a gate, and the gate is to prevent vehicular traffic,” Committeeman Tim Donohue said at Monday’s Township Committee meeting.

He said questions recently arose about the planned recreation park that he wanted to address. No one represented the Taxpayers Association at this week’s meeting.

The closing of the gate stems from the parking lot never being completed at the Ockie Wisting Park, Donohue said.

“There are issues there of liability for the township,” he said.

A dirt road also leads to the old campground and that could create “mischief.” People could ride ATVs and other vehicles there, he said.

“So before we act in a kneejerk way to throw open the gates, we need to examine all those issues, then hopefully we can get that gate open as soon as we move to develop the whole site,” Donohue said. “But I invite people to go there, walk the site.”

Part of the Taxpayers Association’s emailed newsletter reads: “Speaking with the state we found that it is not permitted by Green Acres that the park be locked. It must be made available to residents for use. We called the township and the public works department agreed to unlock it during the week and the police on the weekends.”

Donohue said he has seen people walking, playing Frisbee and fishing at the planned recreation site, which used to be the Fort Apache Campground.

“I’ve never told them to leave,” he said. “I believe the site is open for people to use as they see fit.”

The township is working to develop that planned recreation park.

Donohue also said suggestions are welcome for what could be developed at that site.

Already on the drawing board – but not finalized – is a 20-year lease agreement with

Cape Express Soccer Club to develop part of the site, including fields.

The site was purchased by the township using grant and loans, some of which came from the Green Acres program, according to information provided by the township. Money is given as part of the Green Acres program for improving and increasing open space for recreation and conservation.

In a related matter, the township is eyeing approximately $24,000 in state grant money to develop trails at the site. If awarded the money, the township would give a 20 percent match, which could include money, services or property.

The municipality is also trying to move about $153,000, initially set aside to construct a building at the Ockie Wisting Park, to be used elsewhere at the recreation park, Donohue said.

In others matters, Township Committee:

• introduced an ordinance allowing utilities to be relocated in the area of Ormond and Brighton roads as part of the multimillion dollar Garden State Parkway project. The three traffic lights will be removed and three bridges will be constructed. (See related story, Page 1.)

The agreement is with New Jersey Turnpike Authority. Township Committee will hear public comment and vote on the ordinance on March 4. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. at Township Hall at 33 Mechanic St., Cape May Court House.

• approved a resolution approving township chief financial officer Tracey Taverner, township clerk Kimberly Krauss and public works director Andrew Smith to tabulate bids for the Avalon Manor, Leonards Lane, road improvement project Feb. 27. Avalon Manor is a small community in Middle Township.

• approved a resolution ratifying a lease agreement between Reginald and Muriel Anderson and Middle Township to use the Martin Luther King Community Center in Whitesboro from Feb. 12-Oct. 31.

• approved a resolution endorsing a certificate for Gary’s Automotive to be a used vehicle dealer. The business already handles repairs and inspections.

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