Come one, come all to the Brick reservoir
Site is open to the public, but activities are restricted
BY JENNIFER DOME
But, as Brick Township Municipal Utilities Authority (BTMUA) Executive Director Kevin Donald said last week, there’s still a lot to do.
“In many ways it’s the end, but in many ways it’s the very beginning,” Donald said as he gazed at the 120-acre site last Wednesday. “Now we have to be good stewards for the reservoir.”
The main purpose of the reservoir is to serve as a water source, Donald said. Although there is a walking/jogging path, observation decks and fishing is allowed, the site is not a park, the executive director said.
Once an abandoned gravel mining operation, the land where the Brick reservoir is now almost had 500 homes built on it. The site was appraised for $12 million, Donald said, but since banks and creditors owed money on it, and through some negotiating, the BTMUA was able to purchase the site for $800,000 in April 1996.
Thanks to the decision to rent space for a communications tower, the property itself, and most of the fencing, has been paid off.
The cost of the reservoir, a $3.4 million project, came in approximately $1 million under budget, Donald said. The reservoir was filled by Memorial Day last year and holds 1 billion gallons of water.
The utilities authority is able to monitor the conditions at the reservoir from the outlet works building. From the outlet works building, a tunnel, located 55 feet under the reservoir, runs to the operation center.
“It’s for maintenance,” Donald said, “for us to go down and check the pipe.”
Keeping the reservoir green
As for the grounds themselves, the BTMUA will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining them, just as they do at the authority’s water treatment plant. That 46-acre site was recently certified by the International Audobon Society — the only water-treatment plant in the world to earn such a recognition.
Donald said this is because of the authority’s commitment to doing everything naturally. Chemicals are not used at the site. Instead, bugs such as the praying mantis are brought in to keep a natural balance of “good bugs and bad bugs,” Donald said. And all the plants are indigenous to the area.
These practices are in effect at the reservoir as well, Donald said, in hopes that the water source will receive the same accolades.
“We tried to do things that were environmentally responsible,” Donald said.
There are plans to put in 12 different gardens around the 1.7-mile waking/jogging path. Donald said each garden will be different — featuring rhododendrons, butterfly bushes and other plants.
Already the Brick Morning Rotary has committed to sponsoring one of the gardens. The BTMUA will work with the group to develop their garden, which costs $5,000, Donald said.
Opening the doors to the public
The reservoir was officially opened to the public during a ceremony Saturday morning. Despite the cloudy weather, council President Ruthanne Scaturro said the ceremony was very nice.
“You live through one of the droughts like we had in 1999 or 2002 and you realize how precious this water supply is,” Scaturro said during a phone interview Monday. She said that thanks the imagination of people like Donald and other BTMUA commissioners, the dream of the reservoir is complete.
“It was such a cooperative effort,” Scaturro said. “You had a whole lot of people pulling together to pull this off.”
Mayor Joseph Scarpelli was unable to attend the ceremony but passed on a statement for Scaturro to read.
“The opening of this reservoir is the culmination of many years of work and cooperation between countless people,” Scarpelli said. “This reservoir is an example of what can be accomplished when people put differences aside and work together to make our community a better place.”
The reservoir grounds will be open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from dusk until dawn. Many activities are restricted, such as ball playing, swimming and riding bicycles, skateboards or other vehicles on wheels. But residents are welcome to walk, jog, use strollers and fish (without live bait) in the designated areas.
Donald said that some residents had the impression that they would be able to swim and use boats and jet skis at the reservoir.
“That’s not what it was about,” Donald said.
At the Township Council’s May 3 caucus meeting, resident Len Casella, Quincy Drive, said he didn’t understand why the reservoir will be open only three days a week.
“People thought they were getting something they could use all week,” resident Dominick Rappoccio added.
BTMUA Commissioner Patrick L. Bottazzi, who was present at the council’s meeting, explained that the authority is “trying to crawl, walk and then run.”
The intent was to see what kind of impact the public’s use of the reservoir has on the neighborhood, and then adjust the rules as needed, the commissioner said.
“You have to keep in mind, it’s not meant to be a recreation area, it’s a water source,” Bottazzi said.
BTMUA Chairman Andrew P. Nittoso said Monday that there was some concern that the walking/jogging path would be so heavily used that riding bicycles or other activities would be hazardous. But Nittoso said he thinks everything will be fine and the commissioners may eventually increase the public hours of the site.
“I’m looking forward to opening it more,” Nittoso said.
For more information on rules and hours of operation at the Brick reservoir, visit: www.brickmua.com.