BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders held a grand opening ceremony on Tuesday, October 19, 2010, for Snyder Avenue Park in Berkeley Heights. Hundreds of residents and local and county officials were on hand for the festivities. The park was constructed with funding from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, and a New Jersey Green Acres grant. The New York Jets football team also contributed $10,000 to the project, helping to fund the Park’s sprayground.
Snyder Avenue Park occupies part of a 17-acre parcel of land that formerly housed a plastics factory and a fuel depot. A developer proposed 259 units of high-density housing for the site, but Union County and Berkeley Heights Township cooperated to purchase the property for public use, for a total of $13 million. Under the joint purchase arrangement, Union County paid $8 million for 13 acres through the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Berkeley Heights paid the remaining $5 million for 4 acres.
Bruce Bechtloff from the Green Acres Program, said, “It’s beautiful. It’s like night and day compared to what it was before. We are very happy working with Union County.”
Union County Freeholder Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan signed the agreement to purchase the land in 2003 that is now home to the park. He said, “It was a horrible site with no use whatsoever. We have a great partnership between Berkeley Heights and the County. We stuck with it. You see the results. This is one of the best projects we’ve ever done. It shows how a municipality and the County can work together. Here’s an example of cooperative effort between both entities and this is the result.” He added, “This was a fuel depot and plastics factory. It could have been high density housing….[look at] how much can be accomplished when we all work together.”
Former Mayor of Berkeley Heights David Cohen participated in the ceremony and had been instrumental in developing the park. “I think it’s beautiful. I grew up in town. We had nothing like this. This is a real win for the Township,” he told The Alternative Press. He said, “We persisted and kept moving on and with the help of the Freeholders and Green Acres, we came up with the Snyder Avenue Project…It’s part of Berkeley Heights’ long-term vision…It’s a legacy that will live on…”
“The field looks great. The kids in town will be really happy to use this field. It’s great for the town and great for Union County,” said Mike Cranston of PAL.
Jesse Linder, Directory of Community Relations for the New York Jets, spoke during the grand opening ceremony. He told the crowd, “The New York Jets are proud to work with Union County on this wonderful new park. We’re extremely happy to be here. For the Jets to be able to be associated with Union County and Berkeley Heights really means a lot to us.”