Ocean County to Honor Freeholder Bartlett with Park Naming

When the red ribbon was finally cut and the ceremonial key opened the gates, Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. was delighted by the view in front of him as the rebuild of Berkeley Island County Park had reached completion.

Bartlett was adamant about the park being reopened to the public by Memorial Day weekend and on May 23, with great pride he presided over the "gate opening" ceremony.

"This is a great day," Bartlett said at the grand opening. "We have waited a long time for this. And while it felt at times we would never get here we have and it's better than ever."

On that warm spring day, Bartlett viewed the completion of a project that was the last on a long list of repairs to facilities damaged by Superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, 2012. The popular Berkeley Island County Park on Brennan Concourse in Berkeley Township sustained catastrophic damage to its infrastructure and many of its amenities. Portions of it washed away because of the storm.

The 25-acre site is near and dear to Bartlett as it was the first park he worked on when he became a Freeholder 39-years ago. 

"This park, amongst all of our County parks, is one of the most near and dear to John," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. "This park is representative of all of the effort and Freeholder Bartlett's staunch commitment to providing residents and visitors with the very best park facilities and open space."

To honor Freeholder Bartlett as his tenure on the Board draws to a close, his colleagues will rename Berkeley Island County Park to the John C. Bartlett Jr. County Park at Berkeley Island.

"It is now the desire of this Board to honor the legacy of one of our most revered leaders by formally renaming Berkeley Island County Park as the new "John C. Bartlett Jr. County Park at Berkeley Island," states the Board resolution scheduled to be passed at the Oct. 17 Freeholder Board meeting.

"There is no more fitting way to honor our colleague and our friend," Little said. 

Bartlett announced in August he will be retiring from his seat as Freeholder at the end of his term on Dec. 31 following 39 consecutive years on the Board. Bartlett has been struggling with health issues and as a result made the difficult decision to step down at the end of the year.

"John is leaving an indelible mark on Ocean County, and has made this County a better place for all of its residents," said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who has served alongside Bartlett for 37 years. 

Bartlett, the longest serving Freeholder in the state, has championed the Ocean County Parks system, throughout his time on the Board, growing it to 27 different sites, including golf courses, dog parks, and active and passive recreational facilities.

The redevelopment of Berkeley Island County Park included the county's first splash/water park, which immediately became popular with park visitors.

During the redeveloped park's opening ceremony, Bartlett tapped into his inner-child and enjoyed climbing on playground ropes and happily dashed around the water park in an effort not to get wet.

"He was undaunted by the damage and the potential problems with the redevelopment that lied ahead at that park," said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly. "It speaks of his character, his determination and his love for our parks. He knew how much the park meant to the residents and he moved forward with its redevelopment no matter the challenges."

Bartlett never gave up on bringing the park back from the devastation caused by the Superstorm Sandy.

"My colleagues and I on the Board of Freeholders understand that parks are of great importance for the community and a necessity for the health, well-being and enjoyment of our residents, families and friends," Bartlett said during the work phase of the park's redevelopment project. "The loss of Berkeley Island County Park five years ago affected many residents throughout Ocean County. When it's done it will be an improved facility with new enhancements that can be enjoyed by all."

Freeholder Virginia E. Haines noted that Freeholder Bartlett is a man of his word.

"He wanted this park to be redeveloped and he wanted it to better and stronger than it was before," Haines said. "He made certain all of that happened and now it will stand as a testimonial to his hard work and dedication to Ocean County."