Good Bye Bandstand and Trees: Cape May’s New Rotary Park

Cape May, NJ – It was tough watching an old friend bite the dust. Cape May’s bandstand was demolished unceremoniously in mid-March, part of a 1.8 million dollar renovation plan for Rotary Park.

The 40 year old bandstand served as Cape May’s anchor to a quieter, gentler time. In the summer, people still came to the bandstand to listen to old fashioned string band concerts.  In December, the brightly decorated bandstand was home to the town’s official Christmas Tree. 

But times change. Here, on day two of the demolition, only the bandstand’s brick stairs were left.

With the structure all but gone, there was now a clear view straight to the Washington Street Mall.

That is the idea. The new plan will link the mall and its shops with the park. There will be nicely paved walkways.  A new bandstand, made from metal, will be positioned on the edge of the park. A fountain will be added in the center.

There was just one more thing:

Twenty nine trees in and around the park would have to be cut down.

Over the last few weeks, crews have been busy cutting and clearing.

Cape May Mayor Edward Mahaney said the trees being removed were either diseased or were growing too close together.

No doubt, the welcoming shade those mature trees provided also would have made it difficult to establish the new green turf and flower beds planned by Cape May’s landscape architects.

So the trees were going. But how do you clear twenty nine trees from a city park? One at a time.  

It was a slow process. And a little painful to watch.

On April 15th, almost a month after the demolition started, most of the trees were gone.

This is how Rotary Park looks now:

Construction on the new square is expected to last through June. The Mayor says the new Rotary Park will be open to the public by July 1.

While we wait for what comes next, a moment of silence for what went before.

Here is Cape May Times’ final photo of the old park and its trees, in that beautiful March snowfall.


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About Jane Kashlak

Jane Kashlak - a journalist, gardener and Cape Island resident - is writing a book.