by Carolyne Volpe Curley / Carolyne@WestEssexNOW.com
CEDAR GROVE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. outlined plans for the new 77-acre Essex County Cedar Grove Park on Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove on Friday, May 13th. Located on the site of the old Essex County Hospital Center, the park will be the first county park in Cedar Grove and will be the fourth largest in the Essex County Parks System.
“Preservation of this land for passive recreation and a community center
The new Essex County Cedar Grove Park will be 77 acres of open space situated along Fairview Avenue in Cedar Grove. There will be about two miles of walking paths through the park with historic lighting, benches and trash receptacles. The 15,000-square-foot Essex County Robert J. O’Toole Community Center, named for the retired Cedar Grove Mayor and Councilman Robert J. O’Toole, will be located on the eastern side of Fairview Avenue.
“I am really humbled and honored by all this.
“My family and I are deeply honored to have the new
The building will have a covered portico in front and a covered patio in the back. It is envisioned that the building will house a daily congregate meal program offered by the Essex County Division of Senior Citizens as well as be available for other community organizations to hold meetings and special events. In the rear of the building will be four bocce courts and a playground designed with a farming theme to connect to the history of the Essex County Hospital Center when there was a farm on the site to support the hospital.
“The preservation of open space is important to an area as developed as Essex County and Cedar Grove. We hope that individuals and families come here and enjoy this park,” Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin said.
Other elected officials spoke highly of Mr. O’Toole and the lifetime of public service he provided to Cedar Grove and how the new park will become a resource for the township.
“You can see the great example of serving the community
O’Toole served three terms as Mayor of Cedar Grove and three terms as Deputy Mayor during his 12 years on the Municipal Council. He retired from public office in 2015 after deciding not to seek re-election after serving three terms. One of his platform issues was preserving what was known as “Parcel 5” of the old Essex County Hospital Center on Fairview Avenue as open space. He worked diligently against the overdevelopment of Cedar Grove, to preserve as much of the hospital tract as open space.
“This is a great and well-deserved tribute to Mr. O’Toole,
O'Toole also was a proponent of reducing local property taxes while providing quality services to keep Cedar Grove as an attractive and affordable place to reside; and promoting quality of life ordinances, including the creation of an “Animal House” ordinance to hold landlords responsible for rowdy tenants.
“It is with pride and pleasure that the Board of Freeholders
Mr. O’Toole also has a lengthy resume of public service to the Township, working as a member of the Cedar Grove Volunteer Fire Department for 45 years, establishing and serving as a founding member on the Peckman River Regional Control Board to address flooding along the Peckman River; and serving on the Cedar Grove Historical Society, Board of Education, Senior Citizen Club and Planning Board, volunteering as a coach for Little League football and baseball teams, and being involved with St. Catherine of Siena Church, its school and its annual Carnival. He enlisted twice in the U.S. Army and served in Korea, and is a member of the Korean War Veterans Association and American Legion.
“Our Essex County parks have become sanctuaries.
The land which was the last remaining parcel from the old Essex County Hospital Center complex was slated to be sold to a private developer, but in 2008 the County Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders initiated a change in policy and decided to preserve the land as open space. A lengthy lawsuit involving the developer, the County and the Township was resolved in 2015 when a compromise was reached.
“Mr. O’Toole has truly left his mark on our community
The engineering firm of CME Associates from Parlin received a $650,000 contract to design the new park. JC Landscape Construction from Pequannock was awarded a publicly bid contract for $11.05 million to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the project and answer questions so that delays can be avoided. The project is being funded with a $5 million grant from the NJ Green Acres program, a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund and the Essex County Capital Improvement Budget. It is scheduled to be completed by January 2017.
Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.
465 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Newark, NJ 07102
Essex County Cedar Grove Park is the fifth new park to be added to the Essex County Park System since 2007. The 11-acre Essex County Kip’s Castle Park in Montclair and Verona was preserved in 2007, the 10-acre Presby Memorial Iris Gardens was preserved in 2009, the 2.7-acre Essex County Veterans Memorial Park in the Essex County Government Complex in Newark was opened in 2009 and the 12.3-acre Essex County Riverfront Park was created in 2012.
VERONA, NJ - Earlier this month, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced the completion of renovations to the Essex County Verona Park Boathouse. The upgrades are part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to modernize facilities and infrastructure while ensuring that the historic Essex County Park System continues to meet the recreation needs of the community. The project totaled $433,310 and was funded through the Essex County Capital Budget.
In 2003, Essex County spent $230,000 to dredge Verona Park Lake and install a rubberized safety surface on the park's playground. In addition to the dredging, landscaping to prevent erosion was planted along the banks of the lake, a 1.2-mile health walk was restored and benches were replaced. A new drainage system was also implemented at the playground.
The following year, 2004, a $1 million upgrade funded with grant dollars, created a Children’s Garden with an amphitheater, modernization of the tennis courts, construction of a restroom building near the playground and enhancements to the park entrances.
A five-station fitness course, landscaping upgrades and improvements to the Verona Lake Dam were completed at the cost of $400,000 in 2008. In 2012, a $1 million project to upgrade the pathway lighting and repair the dock at the boathouse was also completed.
The projects totaled $2.4 million and were all funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program, Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s Infrastructure Improvement Trust Fund.
The boathouse is divided into three sections; both the large meeting room and the central meeting room have heat and air-condition and can be used year-round:
This 2014 project began with modernizing the restroom facilities in the boathouse and in the park. It then provided a comprehensive face-lift to the central part of the Boathouse building to make it more attractive for special events and have it available as a seating area for the concession.
“The center room of the Verona Park Boathouse was such an under-utilized area because it was so dark and isolated," DiVincenzo explained.
Verona Park Boathouse Improvements
The work to the Boathouse facility began in April and was completed in less than 10 weeks. The Essex County upgrades include:
Boat House Burger Shack
The Boat House Burger Shack is the kitchen which has been operating out of the county's Boathouse since last summer. It's privately owned and run by Aramark, a company which is based out of Philadelphia, and also runs the food concessions at Codey Arena and Turtle Back Zoo. The Burger Shack menu consists of salads, wrap sandwiches, burgers along with ice-cream, shakes and beverages.
Boat House Rental
Anyone interested in renting the facility must fill out the county's Special Event Permit Application which is found online here. The newly renovated Central Meeting Room is rented at the cost of $100 per hour, for a minimum of four hours.
If the Central Meeting Room is full, there is additional seating on the deck. The Large Meeting Room, if it is not in use, may also be used for an event.
Paddle and Row Boat Rentals
In addition, Aramark also manages the boat rentals at the Verona Park Lake.
Rental Fees for either boat:
From left: Tom O'Connor from Unity Construction, Nick Centrone from Aramark, Bob Hertling from Unity Construction, Verona Park Conservancy member Marvin Friedman, Essex County Public Works Director and Engineer Sanjeev Varghese, Verona Park Conservancy member Charles Heyer, Freeholder Leonard Luciano, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold, Steve Churilli from Unity Construction, Verona Councilman Frank Sapienza, Walter Younghans from Unity Construction, Verona Park Conservancy President Jim McGregor and Verona Township Manager Joseph Martin
On Wednesday, July 2, the county executive hosted an event to display the improvements the county has made to the Boathouse facility. Joining DiVincenzo that day to cut the ceremonial ribbon were Essex County Public Works Director and Engineer Sanjeev Varghese, Essex County Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold and Freeholder Leonard Luciano, Verona Town Manager Joseph Martin and Verona Councilman Frank Sapienza. Also on hand was Verona Park Conservancy President James McGregor and conservancy members Marvin Friedman and Charles Heyer.
Joining them as well were Unity Construction Service representatives Steve Churilli, Bob Hertling, Tom O'Connor and Walter Younghans. Also present was Nick Centrone from Aramark, the vendor who has the food concession at the boathouse.
The improvements were seemingly well received by the local elected officials and members of the community who observed them.
“On behalf of Verona, we’d like to thank the County Executive
Several organizations utilize the building for meetings, including the Sierra Club and a local senior citizen group. The large room on the southern side of the building remained open during construction and activities in the building were not disrupted.
“We are tremendously happy that this building was renovated,
The improvements were designed by T+ Associates Architects from Philadelphia, and Unity Construction Services from Sayreville was awarded a publicly bid contract for $433,310 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works reviewed the architectural design and monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided.
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.