NORTH CALDWELL, NJ - Community members and their four-legged friends came out to celebrate the official opening of the new Off-Leash Dog Park in the Essex County Hilltop Reservation in North Caldwell on Friday with a celebratory ribbon cutting. 

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. was joined by North Caldwell Mayor Joseph Alessi and members of council, Verona Mayor Kevin Ryan, Essex County Freeholders Patricia Sebold and Leonard Luciano, county park director Ron Salvanti, Doug Hopper from Remington and Vernick, Nick Naik from Zenith Construction and many others as they cut the ribbon. As he thanked everyone for coming, Luciano said that the Hilltop Dog Park was a dream come true.

"Im very excited to be here today to cut the ribbon on our West Essex dog park that is located here in North Caldwell on Mountain Avenue," he said. "The park will service both large and small dogs in two separate off-leash gated areas."

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"Five years ago, I pushed for a dog park on the county level to the county executive and my Freeholder colleagues and finally, we found the right location and municipality and secured the funding. Again, I'm excited to be here and I hope all dog owners and dogs enjoy."

Salvanti thanked DiVincenzo and his team for a job well done and said it was a great day in North Caldwell. Hopper, whose team designed the Hilltop Dog Park, brought his dog Dakota to the opening and said that he appreciated being able to work with the county on this project.

Remington and Vernick from Secaucus was awarded a $34,200 professional services contract to design the dog park. It is slightly less than 35,000 square feet and is divided into two areas for small and large dogs.

The small dog area is about one-quarter of an acre; the large dog area is about one half an acre. The entrance has a decorative gate, brick-paved pathway, information kiosk and new landscaping. Inside the park are apparatus for the dogs to play, benches for the pet parents to sit, water fountains for owners and their dogs, and garbage cans and receptacles for dog bags.

The entire area is fenced to prevent dogs from running away. Additional landscaping has been planted, trees were pruned and dead trees removed.

Zenith Construction from East Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $724,320 to perform the construction. With the help of the Essex County Department of Public Works to monitor the project, answer questions and ensure delays were avoided, the dog park was completed two weeks ahead of schedule.

Funding was provided through the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Construction started in early April and was completed in less than three months.

The Hilltop Dog Park is the fourth dog park in Essex County Parks System and the first in the West Essex area. The Watsessing Dog Park in Bloomfield/East Orange opened in 2005. The South Mountain Dog Park in Maplewood/Millburn opened in 2006 and the Brookdale Dog Park in Bloomfield/Montclair opened in 2007.

Freeholder Patricia Sebold said that she couldn't think of anything other than a dog park that is used more.

"Look at all the people with their dogs that came out today," she said. "It is going to be used so much by people in the surrounding areas."

Dog owner Andrew Clapham and his father, Richard Clapham, brought their dog Julius, who loves to socialize with other dogs as well as people. The father and son said they are excited for the new dog park because they are always looking for new places to bring him. Richard added that he is amazed at the size of the new dog park and how nice it is.

West Caldwell resident Libby Lomauro and her daughter brought their dog Sally to the Hilltop Dog Park and were excited to have a dog park close to home. They said they plan to visit the dog park a lot to give Sally the chance to socialize with other dogs.

Sheri Astorino of North Caldwell also plans to be walking her dog Bella to the Hilltop Dog Park often.

North Caldwell Councilman Joshua Raymond said that the Hilltop Dog Park is a wonderful addition to the community.

"It is great for the many residents in town that have dogs to be able to have a place to come and play and enjoy," he said. 

Mayor Ryan added that it is wonderful to be able to walk over the hill and take advantage of the new dog park. 

"In the fall of 2017, we met with officials from North Caldwell and listened to their requests for an Off-Leash Dog Facility in West Essex," said DiVincenzo. "Its creation is an example of how Essex County works with its 22 municipalities to enhance our residents' quality of life and ensure that the County's open spaces continue to meet the needs of the community. The public looks to the Essex County Parks System for recreation opportunities and this includes pet parents wanting places where their canines can run and play without being on a leash."

Seen helping DiVincenzo cut the ribbon above are (in middle from left) Essex County Chief of Staff Phil Alagia, North Caldwell Councilman Joshua Raymond, Freeholder Patricia Sebold, North Caldwell Mayor Joseph Alessi and Freeholder Len Luciano.

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