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County Open Spaces to Provide $4M for Byrne Center

The second phase of the Byrne Community Center project includes an inclusive playground

By Christopher South

WILDWOOD – The City of Wildwood announced it has begun work to enhance the Byrne Community Center Complex, which will be paid for in large part with county Open Spaces Program funding.  

The city plans to create new wellness features, including a community fitness track, where users can walk, jog, and run without worrying about vehicles and other potential conflicts. The city was awarded $2.9 million Open Spaces grant, with another $1.19 million anticipated in 2023.

City Business Administrator Steve O’Connor said the grants come as reimbursement funding, and the city will bond for the improvements and then get the money back from the Open Spaces Program. 

The program began in 1989 and is funded by a special tax assessment paid by all county property owners. Since it began, the program has awarded over $80 million for municipal recreation and preservation projects.   

Mayor Pete Byron said the current track at the complex is 20 years past its life expectancy and shows it, and basketball courts need to be replaced.  

“The cool thing about that track is that it’s truly a community track,” Byron said. “You’ll see people from all over the Wildwoods walk on that track, so it becomes like a meeting place. I mean, I’ve seen people lose a lot of weight. The same you see walking in heavy winter coats you see in the summer in shorts and you can see the physical difference.” 

Byron said there are a number of other outside improvements going in, from new trash cans to exercise stations around the gazebo, bicycle racks, places where people can fix their bike or beautiful new basketball courts, which are part of the second phase of the construction.

Along with the basketball courts, the second phase of the project will include an inclusive playground with shade structures, benches, and other amenities for people of all ages and abilities.

According to a press release issued by the city, the improvements will include “Wayfinding signage designed in keeping with the Open Spaces Creative Placemaking Plan, to help guide visitors to amenities both on the site and in the surrounding community. 

Byron said the city is attempting to get a grant from the National Football League (NFL) for Maxwell (football) Field, as well.  

“We really think we’ve got a very, very good chance of getting this grant from the NFL as well,” he said.  

Byron said the football field costs a lot to maintain and grants are at the center of discussions about the field. He said by replacing the natural grass with a synthetic turf field it will cut down on maintenance costs and be more user friendly. He said heavy rains compound the already high water table on the island, so the current field doesn’t drain well.  

“We’re hoping by the summer that we have it finished. It’s gonna be beautiful, all new fencing, it’s going to be incredible, and it’s surely needed in our community,” Byron said. 

Byron said the project will make the Byrne Community Center Complex a premier destination for health and wellness and is thankful for the partnership with Cape May County and the Open Spaces Program that is making it possible. 

To contact Chris South email csouth@cmcherald.com or call (609) 886-8600 ext. 128. 

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