Beach Break

Aurura’s Play-by-the-Bay Playground in Sea Isle City, N.J.

By Emily Tipping

Even in a seaside resort town like Sea Isle City, N.J., kids want to take a break from building sand castles, playing in the waves and burying dad up to his neck in sand. When that time comes, they head for Aurura's Play-By-The-Bay Playground at Dealy Field, a new, state-of-the-art playground that is accessible to all kids.

Located in Cape May County in the southern part of the state, Sea Isle City is home to nearly 3,000 residents, and plenty more vacationers. It sits on Ludlam Island, a natural barrier island, and features a 1.5-mile beachfront promenade, as well as the usual arcades, shops, restaurants and bars one would expect in a resort town.

In addition to beach fun, the city provides many recreational programs, including some that demonstrate a sensitivity to the fragile coastal ecosystem of the barrier island. Beachcomber walks are sponsored by the city's Environmental Commission, and the city celebrates its local diamondback terrapins with an annual festival. (Drivers are requested to go slow, and when you come across a diamondback in the road, you're asked to get out of your car and help the little critter on its way.)

This sensitivity expands beyond environmental issues to safety and accessibility for all of the people who take part in recreational activities in the city. At Dealy Field, for example, an aging playground was recently replaced to meet exactly these needs.

The wooden playground was nearly 14 years old, and according to Vicki Feeney, recreation director for Sea Isle City, it had a great life. However, it wasn't meeting current standards.

"The playground that we had was a community-built project," she said. "It was an excellent park, but with the new requirements for accessibility and safety, we were not in compliance. It was no longer in compliance with the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the accessibility wasn't there. It wasn't meeting everyone's needs."

So the Sea Isle City Recreation Department decided to build a new playground. Getting this done presented few challenges, Feeney said. The board of commissioners supported the project right away.

"We decided to step up, and the board of commissioners got behind the project immediately," Feeney said.

Despite the fact that the old playground had been built by the community—and the community was rather fond of its work—local citizens did not argue against the need to build something new either.

"I think they realized why we were doing it," Feeney said. "It was not to take away from the community-built playground. I think they realized we just needed to be in compliance. The playground was on its 13th year. That's a long time for a wooden playground, and we did everything we could to maintain it along the way, but eventually you need to replace it."

The new playground was designed and built by BCI Burke, with Collinson Associates based in Brielle, N.J., coordinating the project. It was christened Aurura's Play-By-The-Bay, in recognition of the efforts of one of the individuals who spearheaded the committee.

Now that the playground is open, kids visit every day to play on the modern equipment, which includes climbers, swings, slides and more.

The playground also features an impact-absorbing surface, designed to prevent injuries.

"It's a poured-in-place safety surfacing, and it highlights the equipment nicely," Feeney said.

The playground is adjacent to other new improvements at Dealy Field, including a state-of-the-art recreation building, landscaped grounds and updated tennis courts. In addition to these amenities, Dealy Field, which is the city's main recreational complex, also features a football/soccer field, baseball/softball fields, a street hockey court, a skatepark, basketball courts and a walking path. There's a picnic area, too, where parents can sit and watch as their children play on the new equipment.

The whole thing, Feeney said, is very eye-catching. "We've had quite a few remarks," she said, "and people have actually driven a couple of hours to play on the playground."

With the improved accessibility and state-of-the-art safety features, it's no wonder kids want to take a break from the beach for some playtime.


Sea Isle City Recreation Department:

BCI Burke Company LLC:

Collinson Associates:

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