CRANFORD, NJ - On Friday, the Township of Cranford issued a press release announcing that based on recommendations from Public Safety Officials, the Cranford Independence Day Fireworks Display held annually at Nomahegan Park on July 4 would be moved up to Tuesday, July 2.
The Cranford Office of Emergency Management, in conjunction with the leadership of Cranford Police and Fire Departments, completed a review and risk assessment of the Township's July 4th Fireworks Display and offered recommendations with expectations of making the event safer and more family-friendly.
"The decision to change the date of this family-friendly tradition celebrating America's freedom was not taken lightly," said Township Administrator Jamie Cryan, CPM. "It came after months of monitoring and collecting analysis from the Office of Emergency Management, Cranford Police Department, and Cranford Fire Department. We are blessed to have world-class public safety professionals looking out for our residents.
The release also mentioned that with multiple fireworks displays in Union County Parks on July 4, County resources were spread among three locations. Moving to July 2 presents the opportunity to receive additional assistance in order to provide a higher level of security and to make people feel safe.
Residents have taken to social media to voice their frustation with the date change and even a petition has been started to have the date changed back. The petition as of Monday afternoon had over 250 signatures.
On Monday afternoon, the Office of Emergency Management issued a second press release standing behind its decision to change the date again citing safety concerns and a gradually growing attendance each year. The release read:
As Public Safety Professionals, we are sometimes tasked with making unpopular recommendations in order to improve safety. Over the past several months the Cranford Police Department, Cranford Fire Department, Cranford Office of Emergency Management, and Cranford Recreation and Parks Department have been in discussion on ways to improve on the safety of the annual Independence Day Fireworks display held at Nomaheghan Park. Each year the attendance at this event gradually increases, while the area in which the fireworks are actually displayed continues to shrink because of tree growth.
Roughly 6,500 spectators converge on Nomaheghan Park within a 4-hour period for this display. This presents a significant challenge to our emergency personnel and taxes the preparedness of our local and county safety professionals. For example, last year multiple physical altercations between spectators occurred during the course of the event in which fire department personnel responded as law enforcement officers were committed to another incident. In the course of reviewing prior displays, our professionals have identified concerns with the physical site of the display, as well as the level of staffing available during the display.
We have a tremendous working relationship with our partners at the Union County Police Department, who provide support to us during this event which is held at their county park. Historically, the County has been limited in their ability to provide enhanced resources due to other county events occurring on the same day. Moving the event to July 2nd will facilitate the appropriation of additional county resources necessary to ensure the safety of spectators during this event. These additional resources are necessary to implement the best practices for securing a large-scale mass gathering such as this.
Furthermore, due to the large number of attendees in the primary viewing area, many people have taken to alternate viewing sites both in the park and around town. These sites include the baseball and soccer fields on Kenilworth Boulevard and the Municipal Parking Garage on South Avenue. These remote viewing areas are not formally established or approved and therefore, are not properly monitored because of the lack of manpower. Lastly, the Cranford Police and Fire Departments must continue to respond to all regular and emergency calls for service in the township during this major public event.
In recent years, we have seen our traditional local events be affected by the evolving security and safety requirements recommended by our county, state and federal partners. Whether it be at a school graduation, a street fair, a sporting event, or a local play, our traditions will continue to adjust to these new challenges so that the safety of our residents and visitors remains our top priority.
The fireworks display will begin around 9:15 p.m. Limited parking will be available across the street at Union County College. Residents are encouraged to walk or car pool to avoid traffic congestion.
The Jaycees Race and canoe races will remain scheduled on July 4.