ivy hill playground groundbreaking

Newark, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced plans to reconstruct the Essex County Ivy Hill Park Playground with a new design, equipment and rubberized safety surface. The project is part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to meet the needs of the community by providing modern recreation facilities throughout the Essex County Parks System.

“Playgrounds have become the focal points of our parks because of the opportunities they provide for recreation, exercise and socialization. Providing the most up-to-date equipment is important in Ivy Hill Park because the playground is across the street from Mt. Vernon Elementary School and the students depend on the facility for recess and gym class,” DiVincenzo said.

“Ivy Hill Park is one of the greatest situated parks, being close to Mt. Vernon School and Seton Hall University, being part of the Newark and South Orange communities, being close to the apartment building across the street and the houses in the community. Two things that parks contribute to are public health and environmental social justice, and it’s good that we, under the leadership of our County Executive, continue to look for ways to make our parks better for the people,” NJ State Senator and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said.

“This is a great design for a new playground,” Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake said. “This park is always overflowing with kids and their parents watching them. The improvements to the playground are well-deserved,” Freeholder Rufus Johnson said. “As a Freeholder, I love working with the County Executive because he is always doing things to improve our residents’ quality life. The Ivy Hill Playground is another example of that,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said. “The Freeholders are proud to be in sync with the County Executive, working together to make sure Essex County comes first,” Freeholder Lebby Jones said.

“We are definitely looking forward to this state-of-the-art playground. This new play area, along with the other project promised and completed by the County Executive, makes it amenable for people to come here,” Ivy Hill Neighborhood Association President Houston Stevens said. “Our organization has always advocated for the park because it is the place that brings our diverse neighborhood together. Projects like this help that,” he added.

The current playground has equipment situated on six “islands,” with each piece of equipment placed on its own pad. The equipment was installed over 15 years ago, and the facility was last updated in 2003 when a rubberized safety surface was installed. The natural grass area between the play islands usually gets worn from the large number of children who use the playground from the neighborhood and Mt. Vernon Elementary School, which is across the street.

The new design consolidates the six play areas into one 19,500-square-foot playground with a rubberized safety surface. There will be two sets of traditional playground climbing apparatus and swings for children ages 2- to 5-years old and 5- to 12-years old. In addition, there will be a cargo net climber and a cube climber. A fence will be installed around the perimeter of the play area to prevent children from running off. Other work includes the installation of an enhanced drainage system, tree trimming and landscaping, and the installation of benches, tables, a bicycle rack and trash receptacles.

Remington & Vernick Engineers from Secaucus was awarded a $51,700 contract to design the new playground. Picerno-Giordano Construction from Kenilworth was awarded a publicly-bid contract for $989,731 to perform the construction. The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the project and answer questions so that delays are avoided. The new playground is being funded through the Essex County Capital Budget and a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. It is scheduled to be completed in July.

Revitalizing Essex County Ivy Hill Park

Essex County partnered with Seton Hall University to upgrade the Mike Sheppard, Sr. Softball Field and four tennis courts in 2015. An 18-station fitness course, 53 ornamental light poles and a 300-foot long paved pathway in the western section of the park were completed in 2014. A second synthetic surface baseball/softball field was installed, two restroom buildings were renovated, and pathways and landscaping were enhanced in 2010. The garden recognizing the four students who were attacked in the Mount Vernon Elementary School playground was dedicated on April 7, 2008. A triangular stone wall – the three sides of the wall symbolizing Terrance Aeriel, Dashon Harvey and Iofemi Hightower who were killed – makes up the center of the garden. On the three outer sides of the garden, trees are planted in groups of three, again to symbolize the three students who lost their lives. A fourth stone wall that is part of the garden is meant to honor the bravery and heroism of Natasha Aeriel, who was seriously wounded during the August 4, 2007 attack. While recovering in the hospital, Natasha Aeriel worked with police to identify the suspects.

The three baseball/softball fields received an extensive overhaul in 2005. One of the fields received a synthetic grass surface, press box, scoreboard and dugout, while the other two fields received new sports fencing. A subsurface drainage system for the entire complex was installed to alleviate flooding. In addition, one existing basketball court near Mount Vernon Place has been replaced with two new basketball courts that are equipped with new lights and players’ benches.

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. Essex County purchased land for Ivy Hill Park in 1927. At 18.96 acres, the park is the seventh smallest in the Essex County Park System.