ORANGE, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced that the modernization and expansion of the Essex County Monte Irvin (Orange Park) Playground have been completed on Wednesday, September 14th. The playground is one of five that are being reconstructed this year as part of the County Executive’s ongoing initiative to update recreation facilities throughout the Essex County Parks System.
“Making sure our playgrounds are modern and safe helps tremendously in the development of our children by providing opportunities to exercise, socialize and enjoy the outdoors. The improvements that were made ensure the apparatus will captivate the interest and imagination of youngsters in a safe environment and ensure the park’s facilities continue to meet the needs of the community,” DiVincenzo said.
“About a year ago, we took walks through our parks to identify facilities that needed a little extra TLC and Orange Park was one of them. This playground needed a facelift and we are proud to see the improvements completed,” Freeholder President Britnee Timberlake said. “We look forward to our children enjoying this facility. Parks are very important because they have a vital impact on the community. We’re happy to see this reopen so quickly,” Freeholder Wayne Richardson remarked.
“It’s a pleasure to be here at the reopening of the playground. The County has been wonderful partners with us both here in Orange Park and in all the other areas in which they have helped us,” Orange Acting Business Administrator Chris Hartwyk said.
The playground in Monte Irvin Orange Park was last updated in 2004 when it was completely rebuilt with new apparatus and a rubberized safety surfaced. After 12 years, the playground was showing signs of wear and tear because of regular usage. The project called for the existing equipment that was deteriorating to be repaired or replaced if it could not be fixed, a new cargo net climber to be installed, granite pavers to be replaced with safer rubberized surfaces, all concrete surfaces to be replaced with new material, drainage lines to be cleaned, and new tables, benches and trash receptacles to be installed.
Suburban Consulting Engineers, Inc. from Flanders, N.J., were awarded a professional contract for $17,000 to design the improvements. Tec-Con Contractors from East Orange were awarded a publicly bid contract for $754,750 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works monitored the project so that delays would be avoided. The upgrades were funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Work started in June and was completed in just four months.
Playgrounds in the Essex County Parks System that will be upgraded this year are in Independence Park, Riverbank Park, West Side Park, Belleville Park and Monte Irvin Orange Park.
Revitalizing Essex County Monte Irvin Orange Park
DiVincenzo’s administration has completed several improvement projects in Monte Irvin Orange Park as part of a comprehensive initiative to revitalize the Essex County Park System.
Essex County Monte Irvin Orange Park was renamed in honor of baseball legend Monte Irvin in May 2006. Irvin was raised in Orange, was one of the first African Americans to play in the Major Leagues and was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973. In addition, a memorial recognizing the valor of Orange Police Detective Kieran T. Shields was dedicated in April 2007. Shields lost his life on August 7, 2006, while attempting to apprehend a shooting suspect.
Public accessibility into the park was enhanced in 2014 when new crosswalks, sidewalk ramps, pathways and roadway striping were installed on Oakwood Avenue. In 2009, a soccer field with a synthetic grass surface was installed as part of a $1.1 million upgrade. A $1.2 million facelift to upgrade the park entrances, gardens, baseball fields and pond area was completed in April 2007. The basketball court and restroom building were rebuilt in May 2006 for $527,968. Modern equipment and a rubberized safety surface were installed in the playground in March 2004. The improvements were funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund.
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, a miniature golf course, golf driving range, three off-leash dog facilities, paddle boating, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. At 47.63 acres, Orange Park is the sixth largest County park in Essex and is considered to be part of the original County Park System designed by the Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm. Property for Orange Park was purchased in 1897, making it one of the oldest county parks in the country.