West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Tuesday, October 13th that the expansion of the Regatta Children’s Playground in the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex with new swings and a cargo net climbing area for children ages 5 to 12 years is completed. In the one year that the playground has been opened, it has become a popular attraction, and creating a larger play area is needed to accommodate the number of families who visit daily.

“The Regatta Playground is a popular destination for parents and their children because of its prime location next to the waterfront area. The additional swings and climbing apparatus provide new recreation opportunities for children and the extra space will help accommodate the large number of families who visit,” DiVincenzo said.

The new play area has a total of 18 new swings for children ages 2 to 5 years and 5 to 12 years, a cargo net apparatus on which children can climb, and a rubberized surface to maximize safety. It is connected to the original playground on the north side and there is a fence in so children cannot wander. Additional landscaping was planted around the new playground section and an irrigation system, Adirondack chairs and trash receptacles were installed.

French and Parrello from Wall, N.J., designed the new playground under an existing engineering contract. Whirl Construction from Port Monmouth, N.J., was awarded a publicly bid contract for $377,000 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to avoid delays. Construction began in August and was completed in two months.

The Regatta Children’s Playground was on August 14, 2014, and became an instant hit with the public. It is located adjacent to the paddle boating area and picnic pavilion and is designed with a nautical theme. It has 24 separate pieces of play equipment and a rubberized safety surface. An open area within the playground has a synthetic grass surface so there is less wear and tear and it is enclosed by a chain link fence to prevent children from wandering away. In addition, stamped concrete pathways link the playground to the picnic area, paddle boating and pathway around the reservoir.

Essex County and the City of Orange entered into a 20-year lease agreement over the property in October 2012. A series of improvements have been made to create access to the site and provide recreation opportunities. In 2014, two pedestrian bridges were installed to complete the 1.7-mile walkway around the Orange Reservoir, linking Turtle Back Zoo and Codey Arena to McLoone’s Restaurant and the miniGOLF Safari to the waterfront area with the paddle boats, Clipper Picnic Pavilion and Regatta Playground. The pathway is handicap accessible and enhances access to several trails leading into Essex County South Mountain Reservation. There is also decorative lighting designed with a nautical theme, additional landscaping and trees, an irrigation system, fencing, park benches and trash receptacles.

The 30-by-60 foot, open air Clipper Picnic Pavilion, the floating dock to access the paddle boats, a restroom building and boat rental booth, and the reconstruction of the Oakdale parking lot located across Cherry Lane from the reservoir property were completed in 2013. The paddle boat dock was expanded in 2014.

The 115-acre Orange Reservoir property is located on Cherry Lane in West Orange and is within the boundaries of the Essex County South Mountain Reservation. The City of Orange ceased using the Reservoir as a source of drinking water in the late 1990s. At over 2,000 acres, Essex County South Mountain Reservation is the largest reservation in the historic Essex County Parks System. The County began purchasing land for South Mountain Reservation in 1895, making South Mountain one of the County’s first parks. Today, the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex includes the Reservation, Turtle Back Zoo, Codey Arena, Treetop Adventure Course, miniGOLF Safari and McLoone’s Boathouse Restaurant.

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.