MONTCLAIR/BLOOMFIELD, NJ - The sounds of joy and laughter rang out from the Essex County Brookdale Park playground area on Friday morning as community leaders gathered to celebrate the ribbon-cutting of a new state-of-the-art playground. 

The $1.2 million project was complete with a modernized play structure that highlights the natural wilderness of the park, has a rubberized safety surface and a climbing net. 

"The playground in Brookdale Park is one of the most heavily used facilities in our parks system and the area has become a place for children and their parents to meet and socialize. Partnering with the Brookdale Park Conservancy, we were able to redevelop the playground and create a unique experience for our children that integrates the history and natural features of the park," Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said.

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A park ranger theme reconnects the new design to the original playground design. The old equipment was removed completely and the separate play areas that once exsited, were all merged into one large playspace.

Play areas are subdivided into two areas that are age appropriate. One area is designed for children ages 2-5, including climbing structures that resemble a long crawl, Monarch butterfly, turtle, rabbit and mushrooms. The other is designed for children ages 5-12 including a cargo net for climbing, space world, rock climber and swings.

In addition to Bloomfield and County elected officials, Montclair Councilman Bill Hurlock, Freeholder Vice President Brendan Gill and deputy Mayor Robert Russo were in attendance at the event. Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia brought his infant daughter to the ribbon-cutting so that she could play on the playground along with the other children who gathered there for the opening ceremony.

Russo said, "It was a great combination of two towns, Montclair and Bloomfield... working together with the county. It's a great example of intergovernmental cooperation."

Hurlock said, "This has a special meaning for me. Both of my kids are now in high school, actually grew up in this park and we came here quite a bit."

Remington & Vernick  from Secaucus were awarded a $52,975 contract to design the new playground, while Tec-Con of East Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for 1,222,410 to complete the construction.  

Hurlock added, "I think they've done a wonderful job with what they've done here, and doing it so quickly. I'm hoping that many other families can enjoy it as much as we have."

Inside of the playground area are drinking fountains, picnic tables, park benches, bicycle racks and water misters.

A group called the Montclair Mommies had formed a Meetup group to gather at the park after the ribbon-cutting ceremony so that the children and parents could be the first to enjoy the playground. Dozens of children ran around playfully enjoying the area, while the parents admired the sites.

Christina Liu, of Montclair, joyfully said, "I'm really excited about the new park. It's been closed all summer." She said that the Montclair Mommies Meetup group had scheduled to come to the park and she decided to join them.  

Liu, who was among the first to experience the new playground area, said that she loves the new playground and that feels that it is safer. "I feel like it's much more of a secure place so that they can run around a little more without me having to worry them getting out, the ground is pretty squishy and it's nice to walk on. Everything is so new and modern."

She added that she's looking forward to using the misting station on those really hot days in the playground with her child. "I'm really excited about the mist."

The playground modernization project was funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. work that began in June, was completed in four months.

"It is a great resource for the community and it is wonderful that we can share it with the surrounding towns," continued Hurlock.