Athletic fields, playground, sprayground, walking trail and more constructed at former industrial site in Berkeley Heights
Union County, NJ — The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders officially opened Snyder Avenue Park today, a new 13-acre recreational facility located in Berkeley Heights. The park was constructed with funding from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, and a New Jersey Green Acres grant.
The New York Jets football team also contributed to the project.
“It was a pleasure to work with the citizens and elected officials of Berkeley Heights to preserve the land for Snyder Avenue Park,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Daniel P. Sullivan. “By combining local resources with state funding, we saved this wonderful resource from development, and created a new park that the community can enjoy for generations.”
Snyder Avenue Park occupies part of a 17-acre parcel of land that formerly housed a plastics factory and a fuel depot. A developer proposed 259 units of high-density housing for the site, but Union County and Berkeley Heights Township cooperated to purchase the property for public use, for a total of $13 million.
Under the joint purchase arrangement, Union County paid $8 million for 13 acres through the Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Berkeley Heights paid the remaining $5 million for 4 acres.
As a condition of the purchase, the previous owners cleaned up environmental hazards on the site at no cost to the public.
“The clean-up was an additional benefit that makes the environment safer and healthier for all,” said Sullivan, who noted that the site is adjacent to another 17-acre parcel of open space preserved by the Township.
The Freeholder Board awarded a $3.85 million contract to Applied Landscape Technologies of Montville to build the new park on the 13 acres owned by Union County. Approximately $1.5 million of the amount was paid through a state Green Acres grant, and the remaining $2.35 million came from the county’s Trust Fund.
A large part of the park is preserved for nature conservation. The remainder was designed as a multi-use recreational facility by T&M Associates of Middletown. This includes a lighted artificial turf field for rugby, football, lacrosse, and soccer, a lighted baseball field, walking pathway and trails, age-appropriate playgrounds, parking, and restroom facilities with a concession area.
The park also includes a “sprayground” or playground with water features, built with help from a $10,000 donation by the New York Jets.
The Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund was established by popular referendum in 2000, with the goal of preserving 100 acres of land for nature conservation and public use.
So far, more than 300 acres have been preserved throughout Union County, including unique properties such as a rare urban reservoir in Clark and a working farm in Scotch Plains. The Trust Fund has also provided monies to local governments for numerous projects to preserve historic structures, build and upgrade recreational facilities, provide funds for children’s recreation equipment, and provide scholarships for children’s recreation programs.
Opening the New Snyder Avenue Park in Berkeley Heights – Children run through a banner held by (from left) former New York Jets linebacker Greg Buttle, Union County Freeholder Chairman Daniel Sullivan, Freeholder Vice Chairman Deborah Scanlon, New York Jets Community Relations Director Jesse Linder, former Berkeley Heights Mayor David Cohen and Freeholder Angel G. Estrada officially opening the new Snyder Avenue Park in Berkeley Heights. The park features a lighted artificial turf field for rugby, football, lacrosse, and soccer, a lighted baseball field, walking pathway and trails, age-appropriate playgrounds, parking, and restroom facilities with a concession area. The 13-acre recreational facility is the result of a partnership between Union County and Berkeley Heights. The park was constructed with funding from the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, and a New Jersey Green Acres grant. The New York Jets football team also contributed to the project. (Photo by Jim Lowney/County of Union)