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Deserted Village

Updated 05/22/2020

Union County Parks are open for Passive Recreation Only, with Social Distance Rules

Failure to observe social distance puts others at risk and will result in parks closing

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders reopened County-owned parks for passive recreation by individuals who observe social distance guidelines that protect against the COVID-19 virus. In accordance with statewide guidelines for maintaining a six-foot social distance, the following rules apply to County parks until further notice:

  • Closed: All recreation equipment and facilities remain closed including restrooms, playgrounds, picnic areas, athletic fields, running tracks, dog parks, workout/fitness equipment, tennis courts, basketball courts, Archery Range, Trailside Museum, Warinanco Sports Center, and Watchung Stable.
  • Reopening with Adjustments – Archery Range – View details
  • Strictly prohibited: Any and all organized or group activities are strictly prohibited including picnics and social gatherings, team sports/practices, pick-up games, group workouts, yoga and fitness classes, and any other organized activities, classes, programs, etc. Teams using County parks for any reason will lose field reservation privileges.
  • Permitted: Individual activities such as walking, jogging, biking and fishing are permitted. Bikes are permitted on paved paths only; trail riding strictly is prohibited. For these activities, individuals may be accompanied by family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.
  • Use of walking paths: Follow arrows to move counter-clockwise only. Slow users keep right; fast users pass on left. Give way to others to maintain six-foot distance when passing.
  • Masks: Strongly recommended.
  • Parking and hours of use: Union County Parks are open dawn to dusk only; no off-hours use permitted. Drivers must observe parking rules.
  • Union County’s Ash Brook and Galloping Hill Golf Courses: Golf courses are expected to open on Wednesday, May 6, after routine maintenance.
  • Report abuse of social distance guidelines to Union County Police: 908-654-9800
  • Park visitors please note: Stay on marked trails in order to preserve fragile native habitat in County parks. The taking of plants and other wildlife is prohibited. Share paved paths by keeping to the right unless passing others. Bicycles are permitted only on paved paths. Dogs must be kept on leash. All trash must be carried out where receptacles are full or unavailable. 

About 1736, Peter Willcocks built a sawmill along the Blue Brook to produce lumber, which would be needed by farmers as they settled this frontier area. The sawmill operation cleared hundreds of acres of forest.

In 1845, David Felt bought 760 acres of land and built a printing factory along the brook. He built an entire town on the bluff above the brook to support the mill operation, and by 1850, 175 people were living in Feltville. After Felt retired in 1860, other business ventures were tried but failed, and the town became deserted for a short time.

But in 1882, Warren Ackerman bought the property and converted the former mill town into a summer resort, called Glenside Park. When the popularity of mountain resorts was displaced by the advent of the Jersey Shore, Glenside Park closed in 1916.

Soon after the Union County Park System was formed in 1921, this area was incorporated into the Watchung Reservation, one of America’s first county parks. The grounds of the Deserted Village are open every day, dawn to dusk.   The Visitor Center is open Saturdays and Sundays (and most holidays) from noon to 5pm.

There is a pamphlet available for a walking tour that explains the ten surviving historic buildings, some of which are still inhabited. The pamphlets outlining the walking tour through the Deserted Village, with some additional history, are usually available at the brown kiosks, one in the parking lot just off Glenside Avenue, and the other just past the General Store/Church. The pamphlet is also available online.


In recognition of the Interpretive panels located throughout the Deserted Village, which describe its history, Union County received a 2018 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo), for contribution to the Arts, Culture and Historic Preservation.