15 Aug ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO AND EAST ORANGE MAYOR TAYLOR ANNOUNCE UPGRADES TO ESSEX COUNTY WATSESSING PARK New Walking Track Surface and Sidewalks, and Basketball Court Modernization are among Improvements
East Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. was joined by East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor, III at Essex County Watsessing Park on Monday, August 15th to announce the completion of three projects that continue the ongoing revitalization of the park. The modernization of the basketball court, resurfacing of the rubberized running/walking track and the installation of new sidewalks around the southern end of the park provide modern facilities on which visitors can play, run or walk, and ensure the needs of the community continue to be met.
“The upgrades to the walking track, sidewalks and basketball court amount to over $600,000 being invested into Essex County Watsessing Park to ensure our facilities are safe and provide first-class recreation opportunities for our children and residents. This is an example of how we continue to work with our municipal partners like Mayor Taylor and the community to identify what is needed in our parks and how we ensure progress is made,” DiVincenzo said.
“Our motto in East Orange is about urban excellence and creating a destination city. With County Executive DiVincenzo and his motto of Putting Essex County First, we are working together for the benefit of our residents,” East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor said. “Young people, adults and seniors need first class facilities like this because it inspires wellness and physical fitness,” he added.
“The Friends of Watsessing Park are pleased that we have such a great partnership with Essex County and the towns surrounding Watsessing Park,” said Jenni Gamble from the Friends of Watsessing Park. “So many children and adults are getting such great use out of the facilities because of the improvements,” she added.
The first phase of improvements was the resurfacing of the rubberized walking track on Glenwood Avenue. The one-fifth mile track received a new surface and lines. It was designed in-house by the Essex County Department of Public Works. American Athletic Courts from Southampton, N.J., was awarded a publicly bid contract for $277,000 to perform the construction work. It was funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.
The second phase was the replacement of the sidewalks around the perimeter of the park in East Orange along Glenwood Avenue, Dodd Street and Cleveland Terrace. The new concrete surface replaced old slate sidewalks that had become uneven and presented tripping hazards. Consolidated Maintenance Solutions from Fairfield was awarded a $176,410 public bid contract to remove the old sidewalk and install the new one. It was funded through the Department of Public Works.
The third phase was the rehabilitation of the basketball court by Glenwood Avenue in East Orange. The court was rebuilt with a new playing surface and backboards. It was designed in-house by the Department of Public Works. Sita Construction from Goshen, N.Y., was awarded a $158,400 publicly-bid contract to perform the construction work. It was funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.
Revitalizing Essex County Watsessing Park
These upgrades the latest of several major improvements made in Watsessing Park since DiVincenzo took office in 2003. A majority of the projects were funded with grants received by Essex County and the Watsessing Park Conservancy from the New Jersey Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board, and in-kind services from other governmental agencies.
In 2016, the pedestrian bridge over the Second River was damaged during a spring storm and was repaired within a month. In 2014, ornamental historic lighting was installed along the walking paths throughout the park. In 2010, a synthetic grass surface soccer/lacrosse field in Essex County Watsessing Park off of Bloomfield Avenue was developed, new wrought iron fencing was installed along the perimeter of the park along Bloomfield Avenue and a synthetic grass surface inside the walking track was installed.
The park building on Glenwood Avenue was modernized for year-round use through a $672,200 project in 2008. A $900,000 project to modernize the walking track, basketball court and lawn bowling building, as well as enhance park entranceways and improve landscaping in the southern section of the park, was completed in October 2006.
In 2005, Essex County opened a 19,500-square-foot Off-Leash Dog Facility, the first of its kind in the Essex County Park System. The dog exercise area was created in partnership with the Watsessing Park Conservancy and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. NJ Transit (NJT) also worked cooperatively with Essex County to upgrade the pedestrian bridge in the eastern section of the park. NJT made about $120,000 worth of improvements to the bridge.
In 2004, Essex County completed a $902,000 project to rehabilitate the historic bandstand near Bloomfield Avenue and the Lawn Bowling green off Glenwood Avenue in Bloomfield. The lawn bowling facility was reopened with a new synthetic grass surface and fencing, and repaired restroom facilities in an adjacent field house. In addition, restroom facilities in the Community Center on Conger Street in Bloomfield were updated. Basketball courts located off of Glenwood Avenue in East Orange were renovated and the Essex County seal was painted at the center of each court. Water fountains were repaired, and additional trash receptacles and decorative benches were placed throughout the park.
In 2003, Essex County completed a $65,000 beautification project at the Bloomfield Avenue entrance to Watsessing Park. New sidewalks, decorative park pathways and landscaping improved the entrance, making it more inviting. In addition, upgrades were made to the drainage system, park trees were trimmed, and the restrooms and senior room were painted. Essex County also invested about $220,000 to install rubberized safety surfaces in the three playgrounds in the park.
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 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. At 69.67 acres, Watsessing Park is the fourth largest park in the Essex System. It was designed in 1899 by the Olmstead Brothers firm and land was acquisition was started in 1901.