TRENTON, NJ — The Garden State Preservation Trust has approved and recommended to the New Jersey State Legislature nearly $87 million in funding for projects to develop or update parks, playgrounds and fields to help enhance quality of life statewide, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced.  Governor Phil Murphy and Commissioner McCabe have recommended the projects for approval through the DEP’s Green Acres Program.

Phased improvements would be made to Rushmore Playground in Plainfield. The first phase will include replacing existing soccer and football fields with a synthetic turf field and improving the gravel parking lot. Plans call for improvements to the basketball courts, playgrounds, swimming pools and perimeter fencing.

“Each of the projects recommended for funding by the independent Garden State Preservation Trust helps build New Jersey’s outstanding parks, recreation and open space inventories,” Governor Murphy said. “These grants and loans will benefit urban and suburban communities across the state by giving people opportunities to engage in healthy activities, appreciate the outdoors and enjoy time with their families.”

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“Green Acres funding is a powerful tool that helps New Jersey improve the quality of life for residents by improving parks, acquiring land and creating multiple opportunities for active and passive recreation,” Commissioner McCabe said.

“We are glad to see funds going to Green Acres projects. This money will go toward purchasing important pieces of open space. It will also help fund improvements in parks. We need these funds because there are massive backlogs and parks are falling apart without improvements for years. It is important for these projects to get funded because urban areas have a real shortage of open space. We are only doing Green Acres every other year because the DEP doesn’t have enough staff to do it every year,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This money will help put the green back into Green Acres so we can get things done.”

The Garden State Preservation Trust approved $26.4 million for municipal and county land acquisition projects, $46.3 million for local development of parks and recreation facilities, $5 million for local stewardship projects, $6.1 million for acquisition projects by nonprofit organizations, $1.9 million for recreational development and $800,000 for nonprofit stewardship projects. The Legislature must now approve legislation to formally appropriate the funds for the projects.

The Garden State Preservation Trust-approved projects will establish new parks and expand existing ones, develop athletic fields and playgrounds, improve access to waterways, create open space, and enhance stewardship by restoring lands for nature and public enjoyment.

Green Acres funding allows governments and nonprofits to leverage millions of additional preservation dollars through matching federal, state, county and local funds, as well as from private sources.

Among land acquisition projects across the state proposed for funding:

  • Bound Brook in Somerset County will acquire a half-acre riverfront property on Talmage Avenue to create new recreation open space along the Raritan River and to improve connections to Rock Machine Park.
  • Downe Township in Cumberland County proposes acquiring a 1.3-acre property at Main Street and Baptist Road in Newport to be a gateway for the community’s bicycle trail network.
  • East Rutherford in Bergen County will acquire a 3.82-acre parcel for a passive park, with long-term plans to connect multiple green spaces and parks.
  • Fairview in Bergen County intends to acquire a half-acre of property at 102-108 Bergen Blvd. to create a community dog park.
  • Pitman in Gloucester County proposes acquiring land next to Alcyon Lake Park to offer an additional 20 acres of land for passive recreation while increasing the natural buffer between development of land to the southwest owned by Rowan University.
  • Mountainside in Union County proposes collaborating with a nonprofit partner to buy and preserve land at New Providence Road and Mountain Avenue for a pocket park that would connect to municipal facilities and nearby Echo Lake Park.

Major local projects approved, in addition to Plainfield's, for matching grants of $1 million or more also include:

  • A multi-phase project in Saddle River to restore Wild Duck Pond by creating a wetland and upland habitat, removing invasive species and revegetating the site with native species.
  • Improvements to Twin Boro Field Park in Bergenfield including synthetic turf baseball/softball fields and soccer/football fields, sports lighting, field amenities, fencing and stormwater management upgrades.
  • Multiple additions and improvements to Mill Dam Park in Mount Holly Township such as basketball and tennis courts, parking improvements, spray park and a pavilion with a cooking area. A comfort station/concession stand, fitness trail, shade structures, lighting, picnic tables, landscaping and utility improvements are also planned.
  • Camden County plans plazas, pavilions, decks, baseball fields, landscaping, fencing, gabion walls, lighting, signage, parking improvements, walkways and riparian buffers for Cooper River Park in Cherry Hill Township, Pennsauken Township, Camden and Collingswood Borough.
  • Construction or rehabilitation of basketball courts and baseball fields, a multi-purpose synthetic turf field and a new concession/restroom building at Whitman Park in Camden. New playground equipment and a safety surface, as well as park furnishings and landscaping will be installed. Irrigation, lighting and fencing upgrades are also planned.
  • Significant upgrades to existing baseball and softball fields at Brookdale County Park in Montclair Township.
  • Removal of two ballfields and installation of a multisport facility with a synthetic track-and-field event area and a synthetic turf field for softball, football and soccer are proposed for Belleville Municipal Stadium in Belleville Township. Other upgrades include installing a track drainage system, new fencing, new and relocated lighting, and landscaping enhancements.
  • Acquisition of a 7-acre land parcel along the Third River and Spring Brook in Bloomfield Township. The town will restore the floodplain and wetlands to create a flood storage area and wildlife habitat.
  • Numerous improvements for Columbian Playground in East Orange, such as a rubberized walking track, multipurpose sports field, expanded pool deck, new entrance landscaping and fencing, new volleyball court and outdoor exercise equipment. The city also will repave the basketball court and rebuild the field house.
  • Multiple improvements for Essex Park and Nishuane Park in Montclair Township. Improvements at Essex Park include pathway reconstruction, a new playground surface and equipment, lighting, drainage, restroom renovations and park amenities. Pathway reconstruction is also planned at Nishuane Park, as well as a refurbished basketball court, resurfaced tennis courts and parking lot, benches, tables and other amenities.
  • Addition of two basketball courts, six tennis courts, two volleyball courts and an upgraded playground at Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus.
  • Upgrades in Hoboken to transform Harborside Park into Cove Park by incorporating a bermed and terraced design, pathways, playground areas, active recreation space, dog park and waterfront viewing areas.
  • The second phase of a three-phase project at South Park in Weehawken. Work will include an ice rink with an interchangeable surface allowing for basketball in the summer, a pavilion and support building, great lawn, basketball court and a tennis half-court.
  • Completion of Hetzel Field Park in Trenton including development of two adjacent properties. The project included renovating a historic pool house, including a picnic pavilion and picnic area, repairing the pool and installing a new spray pool with fountains. The completed park includes three fenced basketball courts, reconfigured softball fields, a trail system, lighting, benches and bleachers.
  • Middlesex County plans to redevelop a brownfield site in Perth Amboy to install a synthetic turf football/soccer field, synthetic turf baseball field, playground and public access walkway along the shoreline of the Arthur Kill. The county also proposes a parking lot and restroom/storage building, as well as lighting, fencing, landscaping, utilities and storm water management improvements.
  • Conversion of an existing unimproved and undersized sports field at Bishop Andrews Park in Carteret to a multi-purpose synthetic turf field for football, soccer, baseball and softball. Existing basketball courts will be relocated and reconstructed. New lighting, landscaping, bleachers, fencing, picnic areas, ADA-accessible picnic tables, water fountains, shade trees and other plantings are also proposed.
  • Replacement of the softball field with a synthetic turf soccer field at Jerry Morgan Park in Long Branch. The tennis and handball courts will be replaced with several basketball courts and the paved walking/bicycle trails will be repaved.
  • Restoration of Bayside Park in Brick Township with playground equipment and safety surfacing, two shade structures, boardwalk decking, a paver patio area, fish bait cleaning station, walkways, lighting, utilities, irrigation, security improvements, landscaping, picnic tables, benches and bike racks.
  • Drainage, accessibility, landscape and parking lot improvements for Veterans Memorial Park and Pulaski Park in Passaic. An outdoor fitness station, baseball field and a multipurpose field for soccer, lacrosse and football also will be added.
  • Development of Vista Park near Great Falls National Historic Park in Paterson by adding 40,000-square-feet of green space, pathways, a loop trail, amphitheater, picnic areas, meadows, playgrounds, observation decks, timber steps, an outdoor classroom, lighting, comfort amenities and parking.
  • Continued rehabilitation of field facilities at Madden Field Park in Rahway, including a synthetic multi-sport surface for a regulation-size football/soccer field, small practice football fields, baseball fields with dugouts, bullpen and baseball batting cages, fencing, new and relocated facility lighting, bleachers on concrete pads, site drainage and landscaping.
  • A new field house and storage buildings for Arminio Field Park in The existing football field was reoriented, along with a synthetic turf field, a synthetic outdoor regulation track, new pole vault and shotput facilities, new lighting and security cameras, a public announcement system, seating, restrooms, tables, bleachers, landscaping and drainage improvements.

New Jersey has long been a leader in preserving open space. The Green Acres Program, the oldest of its kind in the nation, was created in 1961 as the result of an innovative bond referendum. The Green Acres Program has protected more than 700,000 acres of open space and provided hundreds of recreational facilities around the state.

The DEP is a partner in the Governor’s Population Health Challenge, which calls on state agencies to promote health through their policies. Studies have found that investments in parks and recreational amenities positively impact health and fitness, resulting in less strain on the health-care system. Studies also demonstrate that people are likely to be more physically active if they live close to parks and recreational facilities.

Green Acres projects create jobs and stimulate economic development by making communities more attractive places to live and work, consequently boosting civic pride. They also improve air and water quality.

For more information about the Green Acres Program as well as a more detailed listing of projects, visit www.NJGreenAcres.org.

Follow the DEP on Twitter @NewJerseyDEP.