ASBURY, NJ (Warren County) – For decades, the Asbury Graphite Mill’s old laboratory has sat vacant on an island in the Musconetcong River – sporting graffiti, fallen debris, and cracked concrete.
The building that was once used to test graphite has been barring safe public access to this part of the river. Soon, the site will be transformed to become a new hub for outdoor tourism in Warren County.
On Monday morning, officials from the Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA), along with state and local elected officials, gathered to take a swing at the old laboratory…marking the first-step of a major project to tear down the dilapidated building and replace it with a beautiful park.
“This is the kick-off of the Musconetcong Island Park recreational access project,” explains Alan Hunt, Executive Director of the Musconetcong Watershed. “So we are demolishing the former laboratory building on the site, rebuilding the stairway going down, and then we will open it as a park. Then people can come here to fish, swim, and enjoy the river safely. It will also serve as kind of a green buffer between the industrial site of Asbury Carbons Mill and the Historic Mill and Village.”
The site, along with the Asbury Mill and River Resource Center, were donated to the MWA by the Asbury Graphite Mill. “We like to say this is the bridge between two communities and the island sits right in between them,” says Hunt.
Hunt is referring to the fact that the site is linked by a sidewalk to both the Asbury Historic District in Franlkin Township, Warren County and part of Bethlehem Township of Hunterdon County.
“This is going to be an anchor in Asbury,” says Mayor of Franklin Township, Jeff DeAngelis. He also goes on to say he hopes the new park puts the small town of Asbury on the map, as opposed to Asbury Park, New Jersey. “This actually works in conjunction with a new scenic byway of Route 57 that stretches through Lopatcong and Hackettstown. That’s being worked, so this will help tie on tourism from there,” says DeAngelis.
Although the group did their best to begin demolition using heavy mallets, members of the MWA say construction is expected to start next week to fully dismantle the former lab. “It’s a two part project…so all in all we expect it to take under two months to complete. We hope to have access to this island by late summer,” says Hunt.
Officials also note there will be a temporary lane closure on the Old Main Street Bridge for 2-3 weeks while construction continues.
For more information on the Musconetcong Island Park project, visit Musconetcong.org.