WARREN - Phase II of the 150-acre East County Park, bordered by Dubois, Reinman and Old Stirling roads was kicked off by Somerset County Freeholder Patricia L. Walsh, Somerset County Park Commission and Warren Township officials, including Mayor Carolann Garafola, Deputy Mayor Victor Sordillo, Township Committeeman Gary DiNardo, Township Committeeman George Lazo and Township Committeeman Mick Marion.
The East County Park development is a joint venture of the Board of Freeholders, Park Commission and Warren Township. As part of Phase I, a park trail opened in September 2014, for passive recreational enjoyment of children, adults and dogs.
“We are pleased to announce that Phase II should be completed by early 2018,” said Freeholder Patricia Walsh. “Phase II will provide an even greater opportunity to enjoy walking, biking and time spent outdoors with family and pets. The rolling hills and natural fauna and flora make for a beautiful outdoor experience.
“A planned leash-free dog area will enable your pets to also fully enjoy the park and will provide an opportunity for dog lovers to meet and socialize,” she said.
Phase II includes a six-foot wide porous pavement trail that will run about a half mile, which will connect the Phase I park trail with soccer fields on Dubois Road. The trail extension will provide access to an onsite pond and will include a pedestrian bridge.
The 2-acre leash-free dog area will include two three-quarter acre areas for dogs of varying sizes and a half-acre area for smaller dogs. Also planned are a 40-foot diameter pavilion directly off the existing parking area off Reinman Road and a 28-foot diameter shade structure off the stone dust path near the pond.
East County Park consists of four farm parcels that were acquired by the County between 1997 and 2001. Prior to the acquisitions, the parcels were privately owned farms containing open fields, hedgerows, wooded areas as well as residential and barn structures. The Somerset County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan identified a public need for a park in that area of the county.
“When acquisition opportunities arose, the County moved quickly. The open fields, rolling terrain, water features and woodlands within the park make it ideal for a mix of active and passive recreational uses,” said Freeholder Walsh. “With the completion of three multi-use fields that help to satisfy the active recreational needs in the area, the focus now turns to passive uses. Through the collaboration of the freeholders, Park Commission and Warren Township, the vision for the park is quickly being realized,” she said.
Warren Township Committeemen George Lazo and Mick Marion have served as project liaisons working closely with Freeholder Walsh and the Park Commission. Committeeman Lazo said, “Thank you to our elected Somerset County Freeholders and County Park employees for investing the time and money to provide this spectacular passive park amenity in the center of Warren Township. As a resident of Warren and an avid dog lover, I am fortunate to walk the Park with my dog four to five times each week, and thoroughly enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.”
Lazo, along with Committeeman Mick Marion, have pursued the development of the passive facilities at the East County Park and Marion commented, "It gives me great pride to see Phase II of the Park now underway, while recognizing some five-plus years ago that Warren needed a passive park area to enjoy Warren's local beauty. There was just no better place than this horse farm and track resurrected from decades past. As I have referred to this in prior articles, this park is a "Jewel of Warren" and we will continue our efforts to keep it that way. Our focus will be to maintain passive use and highlight its natural charm. Our partnership with the county freeholders and Park Commission is testament to our ongoing commitment to bring our residents the opportunity to enjoy nature at its finest.”