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County Decides on Plan to Restore Cattus Island Park Building

Cooper Environmental Center building will stay and be restored

Cooper Environmental Center (Photo: Friends of Cattus Island/Facebook)
Cooper Environmental Center (Photo: Friends of Cattus Island/Facebook)
Ocean County officials have decided on a restoration plan for the Cooper Environmental Center building at Cattus Island County Park after months of considerations.

The decades-old building had its exhibits removed after the Superstorm Sandy flooded it with about two feet of water, but questions over state regulations and whether the building would have to be torn down or raised up – and resulting concerns about handicap access and wetlands permits – caused a delay in its restoration.

"It would be prohibitively expensive to raise the building," said Freeholder John C. Bartlett. "And you couldn’t tear it down and replace it because you couldn’t get permits to build in the same spot due to wetlands regulations."

Officials found themselves between a rock and a hard place, but now say there is a solid plan in place to reopen the building with some changes to accommodate concerns over accessibility and future flood potential.

The building will be restored, not demolished or raised, and will feature what Bartlett calls "waterproofing" measures to mitigate the damage should the area ever flood again.

"We want to design it so the building can take a foot or two of water on the inside," said Bartlett, meaning the floors will be reconstructed with cement and waterproof wallboard will be used in the interior. Electrical outlets and equipment will be higher on the walls and heating and air conditioning equipment will be placed in the attic.

The bathrooms, Bartlett said, will be revamped to comply with the latest regulations contained in the Americans With Disabilities Act, meaning some plumbing infrastructure will have to be moved, and a new entrance ramp will be constructed.

"The engineering is being accomplished now," said Bartlett, and employees on the administrative side are calculating to what extent the restoration can be covered through FEMA storm recovery funding.

The good news: many of the exhibits in the Cooper Center were saved and will be back.

"The building flooded maybe as much as two feet inside, but the exhibits were above that," said Bartlett. "All of those were removed and were stored."

With a plan now in place, the county freeholder board set aside $250,000 from its capital improvement fund to cover the work, when it is ready to begin.

For now, the building is still off limits to the public, but the park itself is open.
. June 13, 2014 at 06:36 AM
Gee, nice of them to take so long to decide to restore it.
grace June 13, 2014 at 07:26 AM
can this same concept be used on homes for people who are disabled and cant climb steps? or folks who cant afford to raise their home?
Mortimer Snerd June 13, 2014 at 08:29 AM
Try to get an answer to that from FEMA or Christie's lackeys!
Marynary June 13, 2014 at 09:57 AM
Good point Grace
barbara June 13, 2014 at 11:18 AM
Happy to hear that building will be restored. Cattus Island is a treasure of the State and provided my family with many hours of "free" recreation. Not easy to find something like that now.

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