Essex County officials announced the completion of a project to modernize the Shakil Williams Playground in Essex County Branch Brook Park with new apparatus and a rubberized safety surface. 

The new playground is designed with a music theme, has musical instruments incorporated into the apparatus and has a small amphitheater for performances. There is a variety of play equipment that is age-appropriate for children in the 2- to 5-year-old age group and 5- to 12-year-old age group and a rubberized safety surface.

The playground was dedicated in honor of the late Shakil Williams in 2006. An avid fisherman, the 12-year-old Williams was a regular participant in Essex County’s annual fishing derbies and was an 11-time derby champion before he passed away in 2005. 

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An archway with Williams’ name and the bronze plaque from the 2006 dedication ceremony are located at the playground’s entrance.

“It is important to modernize our recreation facilities and playgrounds because these are the places our children exercise and learn socialization skills,” said Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. 

State Senator and Deputy Chief of Staff Teresa Ruiz said the park is a great tribute to Shakil Williams.

"If we keep his spirit in our soul we all will be in a special place,” Ruiz said.

Shakil Williams’ father Kevin Brown thanked DiVincenzo for fulfilling a promise to modernize the park.

"My son surely is smiling down on us today,” Brown said. “This is a wonderful job and gives our children a wonderful quality of life.”

The old playground had separate areas for the two age groups with a natural grass path dividing them. The new design combines the play areas into one 12,000-square-foot facility and eliminates the natural turf path which was always worn and muddy because of the amount of children who came to play. In addition, the playground has been moved closer to an existing open air pavilion.
 
Other upgrades include a paved pathway connecting the playground to the open air pavilion and other walking paths in the Southern Division of Branch Brook Park, tree trimming, landscaping, benches and trash receptacles. There is a fence around the playground to prevent children from running off.

Suburban Consulting from Flanders received a $49,950 contract to design the new playground. Tec-Con Contractors from East Orange was awarded a publicly-bid contract for $1,055,740 to perform the construction work. 

The Department of Public Works monitored the project and answer questions so delays were avoided. Funding for the playground was provided through the Essex County Capital Budget and a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Construction of the playground started earlier in March and was completed in four months.