Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Wednesday, August 10th that a project to install new apparatus and a rubberized safety surface in the Essex County Independence Park Playground is completed. This is the second County playground in the Ironbound community to be modernized this summer and is among six county playgrounds that are being upgraded this year.

“Providing the most up to date and safest equipment on which our children can climb, swing and socialize is a high priority,” DiVincenzo said. “There is no good time to work on our playgrounds because they are used 12 months of the year. But having the opportunity to work on Independence Park Playground during the summer helped us expedite construction and finish a month ahead of schedule. We thank the children and their parents for their patience and welcome them to this new facility,” he added.

The new playground at the corner of Adams Street and Oliver Street includes a variety of age-appropriate equipment for children ages 2-5 years old and ages 5-12 years old. There are regular swings and handicap accessible swings, cargo climbing nets, miniature zip lines, slides, playground apparatus designed to resemble a variety of musical instruments and a mister that allows children to play in the water during hot weather. A new rubberized safety surface also was installed. In addition, the entrance to the playground has been updated with brick pavers and landscaping. Updating the new playground was necessary because of wear and tear on the old equipment, which was installed in 2005.

“This is what government is about and should be about, and that is to focus on people. I am proud that this administration recognizes the history of our neighborhoods and parks but also understands the modern need and finds a balance between the two,” NJ State Senator and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said. “The County really has done a great job here and my 4-year-old daughter has been counting the days down to when she can return to this playground,” Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin said.

“This is a real neighborhood park and one of the oasis in this ward of Newark. This playground will continue to be the place people migrate to because of the outstanding job by the Administration to keep recreation facilities up to date,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

“I have been watching the Olympics and, if there were Olympics for parks, our County Executive would get a gold medal. It is a privilege to support these kinds of projects that benefit our children,” Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake said. “The Freeholder Board loves all the initiatives and ideas for parks projects by the Administration. This playground is packed; this is what government is all about,” Freeholder Leonard Luciano said.

“This is a great event and a great resource for children. I am so happy to see so many children already playing here,” Newark Councilman Carlos Gonzalez said.

“We are proud to partner with Essex County on these projects. Everyone so missed the playground while construction was going on. To see it opened makes today a very happy day,” said Nancy Zak of the Ironbound Community Corporation and SPARK.

Barreto Dowd landscape architects from Howell received a $47,175 contract to design the playground. Zenith Construction Services from Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,335,000 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to answer questions and avoid delays. Construction on the playground started in May and was completed in four months, which is about one month ahead of schedule.

Essex County Riverbank Park Playground was the first to be overhauled this year. Other playgrounds receiving upgrades that are currently under construction are in Essex County West Side Park, Essex County Monte Irvin Orange Park and Essex County Irvington Park. Replacement of the Essex County Belleville Park Playground is scheduled to begin in September.

Revitalizing Essex County Independence Park

In 2011, the softball/little league field at the corner of Van Buren Street and Oliver Street was upgraded with a synthetic grass surface and new fencing, and the field house was renovated. In 2010, the Senior Building received a comprehensive renovation and, in 2007, a former roller hockey court was transformed into a practice soccer field with a synthetic grass surface. In 2005, a synthetic grass surface was installed on the soccer field and the playground was upgraded with modern equipment and a rubberized safety surface. Essex County has worked cooperatively with the Down Neck Sports Community Group and SPARK to receive grant funding from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund to fund improvements to Independence Park.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system in the United States. It has been expanded to include about 6,000 acres of land and includes 20 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, miniature golf course, three dog parks, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. At 12.69 acres, Independence Park is the fifth smallest park in the historic Essex County Park System. Land for Independence Park was acquired in 1895.