I am very proud to be part of the history of Stanford Drive/Snyder Avenue Park and to have worked directly with the county and other governmental agencies in developing these 17 acres of land for recreation and pleasure for generations of Berkeley Heights’ residents.
259 high-density rental units on Stanford Drive were to be built where an abandoned fuel oil company and asbestos manufacturer once stood. It would have been a huge burden on the town’s infrastructure and the school system. This environmental hazard site would have contained encapsulated asbestos and contaminated soil.
In a 1999 referendum, Berkeley Heights’ voters overwhelmingly authorized the town to purchase the property on Stanford Drive for open space and recreation. Before an agreement could be made with the developer, the value of the land tripled and Berkeley Heights could no longer afford to purchase the land on its own. We contacted the County and they stepped up to the plate with Open Space Trust money (funded by all UC towns) to purchase 13 of the 17 acres for $8 million. They spent another $4.4 million to develop the 13 acres into a park complete with a baseball field, an artificial turn athletic field, bleachers, artificial turf, lights, a concession stand, bathrooms, a children’s playground, a walking circuit, and a $10,000 water fun area donated by the Jets Football Team. It’s now open!
The County will pay the cost of all capital repairs including turf replacement and playground replacement and pay all utilities including lights and water. They do not anticipate any public safety issues at this site and no additional Berkeley Heights police are needed. The Berkeley Heights Recreation Department will schedule all activities on the property and mow the grass as we do with the county owned Horseshoe Field and Passaic River Park in town.
The 4 acre balance of the property at Stanford Drive was purchased by the Township as authorized by the 1999 referendum. The township received an Open Space Grant and Green Acre funding of $400,000 to help toward the purchase of its 4 acres. A community center, that was to be built on the 4 acres, was defeated in a town-wide referendum in 2008. The 4 acres is adjacent to Snyder Avenue Park.
The entire property, both Township and County owned, was cleaned up by the prior owner according to a remediation plan required by the DEP at a cost to the seller of millions of dollars before the property was turned over to the Township and the County. A No Further Action (NFA) letter was provided by the NJDEP.
Projects like Stanford Drive Park happen when elected officials are willing to work with other governmental agencies, put aside political differences, and work for the betterment of Berkeley Heights.