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Bloomfield/East Orange, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced plans to expand the playgrounds in Essex County Watsessing Park on Wednesday, April 26th. Water spray equipment to cool off youngsters when the temperature rises will be installed at the facility near Dodd Street, and a cargo net climber and other new equipment will be installed at the play area near Prospect Street. The upgrades are part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to provide modern facilities to meet the needs of the community.

“We are always looking for new ways to make our playgrounds more attractive and meet the needs of the community. Adding the water spray equipment and climbing apparatus will excite our children and provide them with a unique feature where they can cool off on hot days,” DiVincenzo said.

An approximately 3,000-square-foot addition will be constructed at the playground located near Dodd Street in East Orange. There will be a variety of water spray equipment that can be enjoyed by children of all ages. A shade structure with Adirondack chairs will enable parents and guardians to comfortably watch their children at play. A drainage system, water fountains, a bicycle rack, benches and trash receptacles will be installed, trees will be trimmed and landscaping will be enhanced.

A cargo net climber and other new playground equipment will be added to the playground that is located on Glenwood Avenue near the intersection of Prospect Street. The extended play area will have a rubberized safety surface and perimeter fencing.

Elected officials and community members attended the press conference in support of the playground expansion.

“Residents use this park to the highest level. It’s nice to see seniors walking on the track and families enjoying the open space, but the most pleasant sound in the summer is the sound of children at play. The splash park will be a great addition,” Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver said.

“Joe DiVincenzo and I know that safety is the number one issue. We need great partners, and we have that in the police departments in East Orange and Bloomfield and the community involvement from the Friends of Watsessing Park. Together we will keep this area safe and pristine,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said.

“I view these projects as the County Executive using his vision for Watsessing Park to bring the communities of Bloomfield and East Orange closer together,” Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Leroy Jones said.

“This will be an amazing addition to the park. Watsessing gets a lot of use by the children in the area, and this will be an amazing attraction for them,” Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake said. She was joined by Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill and Freeholders Patricia Sebold and Len Luciano.

“We want to thank the County for the superb job being done to modernize Watsessing Park. When we approached the Executive a year ago with ideas for improvements, he came back within a week with a plan to get them done. Now to have the playgrounds under construction is another project we can all take pride in,” East Orange Mayor Lester Taylor said. “I am honored to be part of this and look forward to seeing young people and their families enjoying the splash park,” East Orange Council President Ted Green said. East Orange Councilwoman Amy Lewis also was in attendance.

“We are very excited to see the work being done not just here at the playgrounds but throughout the park. We thank County Executive DiVincenzo for the time and effort being placed into modernizing the park,” Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia said. “These are really phenomenal additions for the playgrounds and our children will benefit from them,” Bloomfield Councilman Carlos Pomares said. Other Councilmen in attendance were Nick Joanow and Ted Gamble.

Mott MacDonald engineers from Islen was awarded a $55,000 contract to design the Watsessing Park playground improvements. Zenith Construction Services, Inc. from Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $931,091 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the project and answer questions so delays are avoided. Funding is provided from the Essex County Capital Budget and with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Work started in March and is scheduled to be completed by July.

 Revitalizing Essex County Watsessing Park

 These upgrades are the latest 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 sidewalks along Glenfield Avenue, Dodd Street and Cleveland Terrace were modernized, the basketball court and walking track near Dodd Street were resurfaced, and the pedestrian bridge over the Second River, damaged during a spring storm, was repaired. Also in 2016, the walking track was named in honor of Glen Ridge resident Horace Ashenfelter, the 1952 Olympic Gold Medal winner in the steeplechase who trained in the park. 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 in 2008. The walking track, basketball court and lawn bowling building were upgraded, park entranceways were enhanced and landscaping was improved in the southern section of the park in 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.

In 2004, Essex County rehabilitated 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 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 installed 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 23 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.