West Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced on Wednesday, August 12th that the Regatta Children’s Playground in the Essex County South Mountain Recreation Complex would be expanded with new swings and a cargo net climbing area for children ages 5 to 12 years. 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 spectacular setting and location near the waterfront make it easy to understand why the Regatta Playground has become such a popular destination for parents and their children,” DiVincenzo said. “I regularly visit this site and routinely see children waiting in line to use the swings or climb on the equipment. This is something we could not overlook and expanding the play area was the best option to maintain the viability of the playground,” he said.

“The Reservoir area is such a beautiful place that it has to be one of my favorite places,” Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake said. “The County Executive has done such a wonderful job of capturing the natural beauty of this area. This project was unanimously supported by the board because we understood how important it is,” she added.

“Our open spaces throughout Essex County have changed dramatically because of County Executive DiVincenzo,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said. “I am always concerned about our residents’ quality of life and look what we have here at the South Mountain Recreation Complex. Come here any time and there will be children in the playground and people walking around the Reservoir,” she noted.

“I have watched the improvements unfold at this waterfront, and how the County Executive has turned a desolate area into the premiere recreation facility in the state,” West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi said. “We are pleased with the transformation because our township benefits from it. Whenever I come here, the area is always filled with people,” he added.

The new play area will have 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 will be connected to the original playground on the north side and be fenced in so children cannot wander. Additional landscaping will be planted around the new playground section, an irrigation system will be installed and Adirondack chairs and trash receptacles will be included. It is anticipated that the original playground will remain open during construction and may be closed only when work is conducted to connect the two play areas.

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 will monitor the project to answer questions and avoid delays. The new playground is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015.

The Regatta Children’s Playground was opened a year ago 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.


Anthony Puglisi


Lauren Shears