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New Name Under Consideration for Memorial Park in South Orange

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ - What New Name Would You Give to Memorial Park? That's the question being asked on the latest SoEngage survey from South Orange.

According to the SoEngage website, "The Academy Heights Neighborhood Association has been working on cleaning up Memorial Park and is requesting the Village to officially change the name of the park to 'Founders Park' in hopes that it will draw better attention to its uniqueness."

However, despite suggesting the new name "Founders Park," the website also states that community feedback is welcome, asking, "what do you think the new name should be?"

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Name choices provided are: Founders Memorial Park, Founders Park, Founders Field, Dinosaur / Dragon Park, and Valley Memorial Park. There is also the option to choose "Retain Present Name."

According to the SoEngage website, the park was originally created in the late 1800's when Abijah Tillou deeded property to the First Presbyterian Church for the area across from Fifth St., between Valley St. and the Morris-Essex Train Line, which was to be used as a cemetery. The church operated the area for a period of time, eventually deeding it to the South Orange Cemetery Association, which operated it for about 70 years.

In the 1920s their supervision ended, and South Orange Village forbade any more interments at the property, and "gradually the cemetery fell into abandonment and disrepair," according to the SoEngage website.

In 1970, South Orange Village received approval to convert the cemetery into a memorial park, according to the information on SoEngage, which states, "work then began on the park design that would be reminiscent of a cemetery. During construction, no bodies were removed from the area, but headstones were relocated underground to the central area and under the crescent retaining wall. At the center of the park is a column with the names of those interred in the park / cemetery. Many of South Orange’s streets are named for the families who are memorialized on the column."

The generic name “Memorial” has generated confusion over the years, according to the website. "Some residents think the name is a memorial to veterans and not to the origins of the buried. Some people have never heard of Memorial Park in South Orange, but instead travel to Maplewood to visit their Memorial Park," states the SoEngage website.

The South Orange community can provide input about the new name via SoEngage here until 12 a.m. on Feb. 28. As of Tuesday, Jan. 24, 14 people had provided feedback about the name of the park, and as of Wednesday, Feb. 15, 21 people had responded.

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