Gayle Kaplan and Maryellen Zakutansky, neighbors from Keyport, were on a brisk walk on the boards of the Holmdel Park Marsh Trail on a warm Tuesday in March, marvelling at the improvements.
There are three newly constructed wooden foot bridges. The boardwalk is reinforced with fresh new planks in many places, giving the path a striped appearance. And there are new beds of woodchips spread at both ends, where the boards meet the muddy ground.
"You felt yourself slipping down before," said Kaplan, describing the loose planks. "Now it's all been cleaned up. It's just so nice."
The serene Holmdel Park Marsh Trail re-opened recently, after being closed since mid-January for repairs.
The improvements were made with part of a $23,000 federal grant intended to repair flooding and fallen-tree damage to the county park system following Tropical Storm Irene in August. The Monmouth County Division of Employment and Training, which is funded by the NJ Dept. of Labor, received the money through a U.S. Dept. of Labor National Emergency Grant.
"We were able to hire four unemployed individuals to do the work for the park system," said Eileen Higgins, the Monmouth County Workforce Investment Board's Executive Director.
The Marsh Trail snakes through a .8 mile of wooded section of Holmdel Park, directly across from Holmdel High School. It travels over gurgling streams and swampy land that will soon be teeming with blooming skunk cabbage. Stop to listen, and you may here the plop! of an unseen frog.
"It's peaceful," said Zakutansky. "You can come here, and you can walk and you can think, and that's what's important."
Although the Marsh Walk is on all the trail maps, it is often the quietest place in the park. Said Kaplan, "This is my secret garden."
To find the Marsh Trail, see the Monmouth County Park System map attached to this article.