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Newark, NJ – On Wednesday, April 12th, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that two projects to modernize the recreation facilities in Essex County West Side Park are underway. The first project includes upgrading the football field and track with new synthetic playing surfaces; the second project includes updating the basketball and tennis courts with new surfaces and equipment. Updating the athletic facilities will ensure athletes of all ages – from youth recreation leagues to high school competitions to members of the community – have modern places to play and compete and is part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to provide the most up-to-date recreation facilities throughout the Essex County Parks System.

“When we first took office in 2003, the facilities in West Side Park were among the worst in the County Parks System. We made a commitment to update the playing areas so children here would have the same recreational opportunities as other places – and we fulfilled that promise,” DiVincenzo said. “It is now time to modernize the football field, track and basketball and tennis courts because of heavy usage and regular wear and tear. We are replacing the playing surfaces so the level of the fields are maintained at a high level,” he added.

The upgrades to the recreation facilities were welcomed by members of the community and elected officials.

“It is great to be part of a team that preserves open spaces for the future. As you can see from the people who continue to use this area even while it’s under construction, our residents take advantage of our parks. The more we invest in our open spaces, the more value that is added to the town,” NJ State Senator and Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.

“The transformation of the West Side neighborhood has happened because the park has been reinvigorated. These types of projects are not just about recreation. They uplift the community and improve the quality of life for residents,” Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver said.

“It’s great to see that these facilities are being brought up to speed. I’m proud that people in the community will be able to take advantage of these renewed facilities,” Freeholder Rufus Johnson said. “The changes we are making will ensure the community gets the most use from the facilities and will be able to enjoy them,” Freeholder Wayne Richardson said.

“Essex County stands out for the first-class recreation facilities we provide in our parks. These provide our children with an opportunity to learn teamwork while they play and give them a positive outlook,” Essex County Deputy Chief of Staff William Payne said.

“This park is beautiful. We are amazed at the level of detail included in these projects to modernize the track, football field, basketball courts and tennis courts,” UCC Executive Director Craig Mainor said.

The football field received a synthetic grass surface and the running track received a rubberized surface in 2006 when the sports complex was first upgraded. The basketball and tennis courts were upgraded with new playing surfaces, equipment and sports lighting in 2004. In addition, to the new court surfaces, benches, trash receptacles and drainage upgrades are included. Due to regular use, each of these recreation facilities needs to be replaced.

The football field and track improvements were designed in-house by the Department of Public Works, which also will monitor the project and answer questions so that delays are avoided. Landtek Group, Inc. from Amityville, N.Y., was awarded a publicly-bid contract for 848,968 to perform the construction work. It is being funded through the Essex County Capital Budget. The project started in early March and is scheduled to be completed in July 2017.

The basketball and tennis court improvements were designed in-house by the Department of Public Works, which also will monitor the project and answer questions so that delays are avoided. Picerno-Giordano Construction from Kenilworth was awarded a publicly-bid contract for $257,295 to perform the construction work. It is being funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The project started in April and is scheduled to be completed by July 2017.

Revitalizing Essex County West Side Park

In 2004, a 22-car parking lot was created, the main park entrance was revamped for better access, restroom facilities near the tennis courts were renovated, and the park entrances along 17th Street were enhanced. In 2006, a major aesthetic renovation of the lower section of the park was undertaken. In the spring of 2007, the New Jersey Tree Foundation beautified the park by planting 40 new trees inside the park and along the park’s perimeter. A synthetic grass baseball field was installed and the locker room and rest room facilities were renovated in November 2007. In 2009, a new spray park with climbing apparatus and a synthetic safety surface was developed. In 2015, the Community Center received a complete renovation with new flooring, windows, doors, HVAC system and lighting. In 2016, the playground was modernized with new equipment and a rubberized safety surface and the parking lot was expanded.

Essex County Executive DiVincenzo has partnered with the New Jersey Green Acres program, the Amelior Foundation, MCJ Foundation, the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board, West Side Park Conservancy, Tri-Cities Peoples Organization, United Community Corporation, the Boys and Girls Club of Newark and the Essex County Division of Housing and Community Development to secure grants to fund the improvements made to Essex County West Side 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, 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. West Side Park is located on 31.36 acres of land in Newark’s Central Ward and is the ninth-largest park in the County’s system. Land for the park was acquired in 1895 and West Side Park was one of the original five parks in the Essex system.