11 Jul ESSEX COUNTY EXECUTIVE DIVINCENZO REOPENS THE WALLY CHOICE COMMUNITY CENTER IN ESSEX COUNTY GLENFIELD PARK Landmark Parks Building is Modernized and Parking Area is Updated
Montclair, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that the project to modernize the Wally Choice Community Center and parking lot in Essex County Glenfield Park was completed on Thursday, June 28th. The upgrades are part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to modernize parks and recreation facilities to ensure they meet the community’s needs.
“We are pleased that the renovations to the building and parking area were completed ahead of schedule because it enables the community to enjoy the improvements for a full summer,” DiVincenzo said. “The Wally Choice Community Center is a landmark building in Montclair and is the home base for a variety of organizations, recreation programs and events. The fresh, new look of the building makes it a more inviting place for park visitors and will ensure the community’s needs are met for generations to come,” he added.
“This is a special day. The County has done a wonderful job updating this building, and we will make sure it continues to serve the community for another 50 years,” said Celine Choice, wife of Wally Choice, the founder of Montclair Grassroots and the person for whom the community center is named.
The modernized building and new parking area drew rave reviews from community leaders and local elected officials.
“This is a special moment for all of us and a testament to the history of this park,” Freeholder President Brendan Gill said.
“This is where I grew up. The renovations are magnificent; it’s bright and modern, but the soul and heart of the place have been maintained. This gives our seniors and children a great place to socialize and recreate,” Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson said. “Welcome home! I’m so grateful to share this moment with everyone,” Councilor Dr. Rene Baskerville said. “This is such a wonderful improvement for the community,” Councilor Robert Russo said.
“This represents a lot of work and the improvements will benefit everyone who uses the building,” Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation President Al Pelham said. “Joe D. made promises to upgrade this facility and his promise is completed today,” he added.
“We are looking forward to being back here for summer camp. Thank you to the County Executive and Freeholders for making this happen,” said. Catherine Nichols, who manages the Grassroots summer camp.
The Community Center, named for Montclair Grass Roots’ founder Wally Choice in 2009, received a complete makeover. Restrooms were upgraded with new fixtures to meet current ADA codes; the kitchen was modernized with new equipment; the ceiling and floor tiles were replaced; HVAC, fire alarm and lighting systems were upgraded; interior and exterior walls were painted and refinished; and exterior lighting was upgraded. The paved area in front of the community center also received a facelift. The asphalt surface was replaced with brick pavers and a new driveway onto Maple Avenue was created so motorists do not have to drive through the park to reach the parking area. New landscaping also was planted. Work started in early March was completed in four months.
USA Architects from Newark was awarded a $168,500 contract to design the upgrades to the Wally Choice Community Center and two comfort stations in Essex County Brookdale Park. Barreto Dowd Landscape Architects from Howell designed the new parking lot. Daskal Construction from Wallington was awarded a publicly-bid contract for $1,103,660 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. The improvements were funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, and the Essex County Capital Budget.
Revitalizing Essex County Glenfield Park
In 2017, the tennis courts and basketball courts, named for the late Bobby Hurt, were resurfaced and new equipment was installed. In 2015, the playground and restroom building received a facelift. In 2009, the community center was named as the “Essex County Wally Choice Community Center” in honor of Montclair resident Wally Choice, who has been President and Executive Director of Montclair Grass Roots, a community organization that has provided recreation and educational enrichment programs for children, for half a century. In addition, the football field and two softball diamonds were modernized that same year. The football field and softball diamond near the community center were upgraded with new irrigation and drainage systems and resurfaced with sod to improve playing conditions. Football and soccer goals were installed on the field. A synthetic grass surface was installed on the softball field in the eastern section of the park.
In 2006, a major facelift included rehabilitating the tennis and basketball courts, developing a new horseshoe pit, repairing the perimeter wrought iron fence, installing an eight-station exercise course, enhancing the aesthetics of the park entranceways, installing new picnic tables, repairing the community building and field house, and removing dead trees and branches. Essex County partnered with Montclair Grass Roots to obtain funding from the New Jersey Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.
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.