Township takes first step toward creating Scullville Park

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EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – It’s referred to as “the pit” by longtime residents, but soon the body of water that lies between Zion Road and English Creek Avenue will be getting a new, more attractive name as the entire parcel becomes the future ScullvillePark.

Once a dump site for construction material and debris, the “lake” is now inhabited by birds and fish.

On Wednesday, May 9, the Township Committee unanimously approved a contract to clean out the scrap metal that is left on the property from its days as a construction dump site, and Township Administrator Peter Miller expects that a subcommittee charged with developing a conceptual plan for the park will be formed at the May 30 meeting.

“The township has owned this for quite sometime, but didn’t know what to do with it or how much it would cost to clean it up,” Miller said.

Various abandoned construction vehicles and scrap metal lie on the property around the body of water. The contractor will remove all of the metal for approximately $5,000, a price Miller said the township never expected to come in so low.

“We got a very good price,” he said.

He also authorized scuba divers to investigate what lies under the water, if anything.

“The divers went down over the weekend and got to look at most of the lake,” he said. “They said there was nothing down there.”

Under township ownership for more than a decade, township received ownership of the "pit" at Scullville Park through foreclosure proceedings in the after the previous owner failed to comply with a judge’s order to restore the property. The action was ordered as a result of the owner’s violation of the township’s soil mining ordinance, Miller said.  The 150-acre tract of land known as the “Temple Tract” was purchased from Temple University in Nov. 2001 for $1,370,000 after someone donated the land to the school. N.J. Green Acres Program funded $650,000 of the purchase through a low-interest loan and $350,000 through a grant. The township fronted the remaining $370,0000. The land on which the township’s Arboretum and Nature Center now sits was seized after its former owner failed to pay taxes on the property.

 Together all three parcels total 260 acres that will be combined to make Scullville Park, he said.

Janis Hetrick, chairperson of the township’s Environmental Commission, said she was pleased the township was moving forward with the cleanup of the property.

“That it is the next step in the natural evolution of ScullvillePark, something that will be a benefit to all residents and wildlife,” she said. “We always knew and explained that this would be a multi-year, gradual process, but we always have had a vision and plan and knew we will get there.  Plus we are certainly grateful to the (Township Committee) for their commitment to this park as is demonstrated by them taking this action.”

Miller said after the contractor clears out the scrap metal, he will have public works employees remove the pieces of concrete piping and asphalt that are onsite. Then, he can have the department do some basic grading to ensure nothing is buried under the surface.

In the meantime, the subcommittee would be conceptualizing what kind of park it will become, Miller said.

“Will it be a passive park with nature trails for people to come and enjoy nature and walk around the lake? Or will we allow swimming, boating and fishing? The subcommittee will have to discuss these options and come back to the committee with a plan. The one thing we know we will not be doing is cutting down all of the trees and putting athletic fields out there.”

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