It’s taken more than 10 years, but it looks like the 411 acres that was Marlboro Psychiatric Hospital will be cleaned up and returned to the public domain as open space.

Last week, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno came to Big Brook Park, a county park directly across from Marlboro Psychiatric on County Route 520 in Marlboro, to announce that the state was committing $27 million to remediate the property and transfer operational oversight to the Monmouth County Park System.

The hospital, which opened in 1931 with 800 patients, closed in 1998 and has sat dormant ever since, frozen in time. It  hosts the former hospital and also wastewater treatment facility, and will undergo remediation for environmental contaminants and deteriorating structures in order to make it safe for recreation and public use.

The announcement follows Gov. Christie’s recent announcement that the former Greystone Psychiatric Hospital site in Parsippany would be demolished and turned into parkland and open space for the residents of Morris County.

The Marlboro Psychiatric property will be a welcome addition to the Monmouth County Park System’s 16,000 acres of parkland and open space. The county inching closer to its ultimate goal of preserving 20,000 acres.

The 415-acre Big Brook Park, located across the street from the hospital, was formerly used as farmland for patients at Marlboro Psychiatric. The Park System purchased this property, which once contained a piggery, dairy farm and other agricultural operations, from the state in 1997.

Under the current plan, the idle hospital property will be preserved as open space and recreational land. The work is expected to take two years, after which time it will be opened to the public as a park. Included is a plan to demolish existing buildings, environmentally remediate the property, and transfer the operations over to the Monmouth County Park System.

The financial commitment will be met through a partnership with local governments and financed through bonds available through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. Gov. Christie should be commended for seeing that the state is responsible for the site and any environmental damage that exists without burdening local taxpayers.

Standing with the lieutenant governor during the announcement were state Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin. Guadagno credited both men with crafting the plan to move the project forward.

The property is incredibly important to Monmouth County, and those attending the announcement praised Gov. Christie for being the first and only governor to commit real state resources to make this site usable again.

In other news, the county’s Grow Monmouth initiative is gaining momentum. Grow Monmouth is a county Department of Economic Development plan designed to help Monmouth County businesses grow and create jobs. It also actively works to attract new businesses to the county.

During the fall, Grow Monmouth was presented to 35 groups, including representatives from 21 municipalities, six regional business organizations, academia, businesses, health care and utilities. These presentations have resulted in more than 50 requests for assistance by businesses in Monmouth County. These requests were for tools in our Business Building Toolkit, including marketing lists, Web site analysis and economic mapping.

An additional way the Grow Monmouth initiative has helped existing businesses is by reaching out to industry sectors. For example, a second Manufacturing Roundtable meeting held recently focused on the topic of lean manufacturing. About 15 people representing 10 companies attended the presentation.

Grow Monmouth is helping to create alliances between business and government. It is these alliances that will help to grow business in Monmouth County. 

Thomas A. Arnone is a Monmouth County freeholder