BELLEVILLE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced plans on Tuesday, April 15, at a press conference that included Verona Town Manager Joseph Martin and Verona Councilmen Frank Sapienza and Kevin Ryan, to renovate the Boathouse in Essex County Verona Park. The upgrades, which are scheduled to be completed by the end of the summer of 2014, are part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to modernize facilities and infrastructure, and ensure the historic Essex County Park System continues to meet the recreation needs of the community.
“Since taking office in 2003, we have made improvements in every one of our parks to ensure the public has access to first-class facilities. This renovation project will modernize the building and provide more welcoming accommodations for our seniors and other members of the public who meet, gather and enjoy the park,” DiVincenzo said.
“Because of Joe DiVincenzo’s leadership, what we have in our County Parks is well beyond what we had 12 years ago,” Freeholder Patricia Sebold said. “The renovations that are just starting will make this building better than ever,” she noted.
The boathouse is divided into three sections: A large meeting room on the southern end of the building, the central part of the building that is used for events and kitchen area on the northern side of the building from where a private concession operates. This project will provide a comprehensive facelift to the central part of the building to make it more attractive for special events and as a seating area for the concession.
The project includes installing new French doors that open onto the deck; opening an existing wall and installing French doors that open onto the park side; developing a new patio and seating area on the park side; installing new windows, flooring, walls, painting, light fixtures, furniture, HVAC system and fireplace; repairing the roof and making landscaping improvements.
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 will remain open during construction.
The improvements were designed by T+ associates from Philadelphia, who were commissioned by Aramark, the vendor who has the food concession at the boathouse. Unity Construction from Sayreville, NJ, 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 is monitoring the project to ensure delays are avoided. The project is being funded through the Essex County Capital Budget.
“We all live for the weekends and spending time with our families. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit Verona Park and see all the people who take advantage of this beautiful space,” Freeholder Leonard Luciano said. “To have this building upgraded and open year-round will be an awesome addition here,” he pointed out.
“Joe never stops thinking about what can be done to benefit the people of Essex County. He’s on the job 24/7,” Sheriff Armando Fontoura said. “This is a beautiful park and the Sheriff’s Office is committed to maintaining the safety and security so everyone can enjoy this gem,” he added.
“The Verona Park Conservancy was formed to work with the county to improve Verona Park,” Verona Park Conservancy Jim McGregor said. “We are pleased that when renovations are done the building will be open 12 months of the year,” he added.
Past Projects Completed to Revitalize Essex County Verona Park
The restroom facilities in the boathouse and in a comfort station in the park were modernized in 2014. A $1 million project to upgrade the pathway lighting and repair the dock at the boathouse was completed in 2012. A five-station fitness course, landscaping upgrades and improvements to the Verona Lake Dam were completed in 2008. The two projects totaled $1.4 million and were 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. In 2004, a Children’s Garden with an amphitheater was created, the tennis courts were modernized, a restroom building near the playground was constructed and the park entrances were enhanced as part of a $1 million upgrade, also funded with grant dollars.
The Verona Park Lake was dredged and a rubberized safety surface was installed in the Verona Park playground in 2003. The dredging project was started by the previous county administration and was plagued by delays and mismanagement until DiVincenzo restored oversight and held the contractors accountable. 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. Essex County also spent $230,000 to install a rubberized safety surface and new drainage system at the playground in Verona Park.
About the Essex County Park System
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.
Verona Park is 54.32 acres, making it the fifth largest in the Essex County Park System. The land was acquired in 1920 by the Essex County Park Commission and the Olmstead Brothers were commissioned to design the park.