LIVINGSTON, NJ – Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. and the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board announced on Tuesday, Oct. 14 that $3.3 million in grants have been awarded to Essex County’s 22 municipalities. Each municipality was awarded a $150,000 grant to be used for park development, open space acquisition or historic preservation. Livingston will use its grant on the modernization of a playground at Monmouth Court Community Center.
“For several years, we’ve been updating and upgrading our Monmouth Court Community Center to increase accessibility for our Special Needs population. Now, the building itself is safe and ADA accessible, but the playground outside isn’t,” stated Mayor Michael Rieber.
“I’m proud to be a parent in a community that appreciates and celebrates the differences between people,” said Rieber. “This Essex County grant offers us a special opportunity to create an environment that will foster positive social interactions and where all of our children and their families can experience the feeling of success.”
Other municipality projects ranged from installing new playground equipment, redeveloping an outdoor roller skating rink into a soccer field and creating a spray pool and wading pool. Some municipalities used the money as part of funding for larger scale projects, such as sports field development, property acquisition and renovating historical properties. In two instances, municipalities pooled their grants on the same project.
“Our Open Space Local Aid Program is our opportunity to reach out into the community and assist with local improvement projects. I am pleased that our municipalities have stepped forward to take advantage of our Local Aid Program to fund projects that will benefit the community and improve our residents’ quality of life,” DiVincenzo said. “An added benefit is the economic development impact that these projects have. They enhance our communities, attract people to our area and create jobs,” he pointed out.
“I am pleased to see the variety of projects being undertaken by our municipalities. From new playgrounds and fields, upgraded swimming pool facilities, recreation center renovation and preserving historic buildings – all these help advance the trust fund’s goals and will make a lasting impact on our communities. We are pleased to partner with our municipalities and look forward to seeing this improvements completed,” said Lori Tanner, President of the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board.
This is the fourth time funds from the Open Space Trust Fund have been made available for community projects and the second time outright grants were provided. The first two rounds of matching grants were awarded in 2004 and 2006. In 2009 and 2014, the awards did not have to be matched.
For the 2014 cycle, only projects on municipal-owned property were eligible and municipal representatives were required to submit a written proposal and make an oral presentation to the Board. The Advisory Board’s recommendations were approved by the County Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
In November 1998, Essex County voters supported a referendum establishing an Essex County Open Space Trust Fund. The Open Space Trust Fund Advisory Board oversees the dedicated fund and has allocated money to develop the Essex County Open Space Master Plan for the County’s historic Park System, to hire park maintenance workers, to provide matching funds for a number of Green Acres grants received by various park conservancies to revitalize the Essex County Park System and for the Open Space Local Aid Program.