24 Mar ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES PLANS TO INCREASE CHERRY BLOSSOM COLLECTION TO 5,000 TREES 39th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival to be Sponsored by Aetna for Fifth Straight Year

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2015

ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO ANNOUNCES PLANS TO INCREASE CHERRY BLOSSOM COLLECTION TO 5,000 TREES
39th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival to be Sponsored by Aetna for Fifth Straight Year

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Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that the 39th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival will be highlighted by the addition of 1,000 new cherry blossom trees. The plantings will bring the total number of Cherry Blossoms in Essex County Branch Brook Park to 5,000 and solidify the fact that Essex County has a larger and more diverse collection than the national display in Washington, DC.

During the press conference on Tuesday, March 24th, the County Executive also outlined an exciting schedule of activities for this year’s Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival and welcomed Aetna back as the event’s sponsor for the sixth year in a row. The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival begins with the Cherry Blossom Challenge Bicycle Race on Saturday, April 11th and concludes with a final bus tour through the park on Wednesday, April 22nd.

“The colorful display of the cherry blossoms throughout Branch Brook Park will be greatly enhanced with the planting of an additional 1,000 trees. When we started our replanting program seven years ago, it was always our goal to have our collection reach 5,000 trees. This will make the transformation each spring more dramatic and ensure the Cherry Blossoms remain a feature of Branch Brook,” DiVincenzo said. “We invite the public to visit the Park and participate in the line-up of activities that we have planned to celebrate Spring. Admire the beauty of the trees, learn about the history of our Parks System and engage in Japanese cultural demonstrations. The blossoming trees create a pink and white canopy that is perfect for picnics, photographs and simple enjoyment,” he added.

“We’re very proud to be a partner with Essex County again for this year’s Cherry Blossom Festival. We are looking forward to engaging people and getting them motivated,” said David Norton, Director of Sales and Service. “We do a lot to promote wellness in the community and our employees are committed to giving back through volunteer efforts. Aetna also works with the County to provide on-going wellness programs for Essex County employees,” he added.

2015 Cherry Tree Planting Project

During the spring of 2015, Essex County will be planting 1,000 new cherry trees so that the collection reaches 5,000. This is the largest amount of cherry trees in Branch Brook Park. The project calls for planting 1,000 trees throughout Branch Brook Park, pruning existing trees and removing dead cherry trees. Rhodeside and Harwell from Newark designed the planting program under an existing contract. Aspen Landscaping from Vernon, NJ, was awarded a publicly bid contract for $610,718 to perform the planting and pruning work. The Essex County Public Works Department is monitoring the project to answer questions so that delays are avoided. The project is being funded through the Essex County Capital Budget.

The 39th Annual Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival includes the following events:

Cherry Blossom Challenge Annual Bike Race

Race through Branch Brook Park in the Cherry Blossom Challenge, a competitive New Jersey tradition, or cheer on the cyclists while enjoying a day in the fresh, spring air. Various races occur throughout the morning, with the first race at 7 a.m. and the last race at 12 Noon. Registration fees apply to racers. It’s free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom Challenge Bike Race will be held as follows:

Date: Saturday, April 12, 2015
Time: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Heller Parkway
Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom 10K Run

Run through the historic cherry tree groves in this race that is sanctioned by the USATF. A portion of the race proceeds benefit the Special Olympics. Online registration can be done at www.compuscore.com. Same day registration begins at 8 a.m. Advanced registration is recommended. Race starts at 10 a.m. Disabled Run starts at 10:10 a.m. It’s free to enter the park and watch. The Cherry Blossom 10K Run will be held as follows:

Date: Sunday, April 12, 2015
Time: Registration: 8 a.m.
10K Race: 10 a.m.
Race for the Disabled: 10:10 a.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Center
Mill Street
Newark, NJ

1-Mile Fun Run and Walk

Celebrate the arrival of spring and get fit with your family or friends. Children are encouraged to run individually or as a member of a school team. Schools and groups must register in advance by calling 973-268-3500. This is a free event. All participants will receive a commemorative T-shirt. The Fun Run and Walk will be held as follows:

Date: Saturday, April 18, 2015
Time: 8 a.m. Registration
10 a.m. Race
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove
Newark, NJ

Essex County Family Day

The public is encouraged to come out and enjoy an afternoon of family-fun with a variety of events including live performances, children’s activities, a fishing derby and more. Bring your own picnic lunch or purchase food from vendors who will be on site and enjoy the picturesque views overlooking the lake. Admission is free but food and other merchandise will be for sale. The Family Day will be held as follows:

Date: Saturday, April 18, 2015
Time: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Southern Division, Prudential Concert Grove
Newark, NJ

Bloomfest

Enjoy a family day in the pink park! A packed schedule of events includes cultural demonstrations, children’s activities, live music, a crafter’s marketplace, food and more. Winners from the “Why My Essex County Park is Important to Me” essay contest for 4th graders and “Cherry Blossom Poster Contest” for 6th graders will be recognized on stage. Admission is free; food and merchandise will be for sale. Bloomfest will be as follows:

Date: Sunday, April 19, 2015
Times: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Center
Mill Street
Newark, NJ

Cherry Blossom Guided Tours

Have knowledgeable guides take you on a 45-minute journey and point out 120 years of history hidden within Essex County Branch Brook Park’s structure and design. Tours leave from the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center on the hour. Transportation around the park is provided. Tickets are $5 person and can be purchased at the Welcome Center on the tour dates. Space is limited and available on a first come, first serve basis. Call 973-268-3506 to inquire about group tour bookings. The Trolley Tours will be held as follows:

Dates and Times: Wednesday, April 15 to Wednesday, April 22
No tours will be given on Sunday, April 19
Place: Essex County Branch Brook Park
Cherry Blossom Welcome Center
Mill Street
Newark, NJ

Cell Phone Tours
Visitors to Essex County Branch Brook Park can enjoy a self-guided tour by dialing 973-433-9047 and following the prompts or by using their Smart Phone to scan the bar codes at each of the 72 locations to connect to a short history of the park and horticultural information. There is no charge for the cell phone tour.

History, driving directions, a complete list of activities and a web cam where the public can monitor the cherry trees for the peak of the bloom season can be accessed by visiting www.essexcountynj.org and clicking on the Cherry Blossom banner at the top of the home page. More information can also be obtained by calling 973-268-3500.

The Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival is hosted by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. It is sponsored by Aetna and Prudential.

Cherry Tree Planting Campaign

The general public and business community can participate in a fundraising campaign to purchase and plant Cherry Trees in Essex County Branch Brook Park. Each new Cherry Tree can be purchased for $250 from the Essex County Parks Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible, checks can be made out to “Essex County Parks Foundation” and mailed to the Essex County Parks Foundation, 115 Clifton Avenue, Newark, NJ 07104. Please write “Cherry Blossom Campaign” on the memo line of the check.

Donations are being recognized in a “Cherry Blossom Giving Tree” located at the entrance of the Essex County Cherry Blossom Welcome Center. Donations of $250 are recognized with a leaf on the Giving Tree and donations of $1,000 or more are recognized with special plaques on the Giving Tree wall. Donors can choose to have their name inscribed on the Giving Tree or make the contribution in memory of a loved one.

Many of the original Cherry Trees planted in Branch Brook Park were donated to the Essex County Park System by the Bamberger and Mrs. Felix Fuld family in 1927. At its height, there were about 2,500 Cherry Trees in Branch Brook Park. According to the Branch Brook Park Alliance, the original Cherry Trees began to die because of old age and, in 2006, it was determined the original collection had diminished significantly.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 22 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Branch Brook Park was created in 1895 and is the first park in Essex County’s system. At 359.72 acres, it is the largest county park in Essex.

Contact: Anthony Puglisi
973-621-2542
Lauren Shears
973-621-1590