Planned acquisition of a vacant property will improve public recreation and nature conservation along Passaic River in Berkeley Heights.
Union County, NJ – The Union County Board of County Commissioners is moving forward with plans to improve public recreation and nature conservation along a section of the Passaic River Parkway in Berkeley Heights, through the acquisition of a vacant property at 735-737 Springfield Avenue, in Berkeley Heights.
The property is approximately 1-1/2 acres in size and is adjacent to the Passaic River on one side. Two other sides are bordered by the Passaic River Parkway, a County-owned, preserved open space that includes sections in New Providence and Summit as well as Berkeley Heights.
“The acquisition of this vacant property is a key step in our efforts to complete the vision of an interconnected series of greenways that link our public parks throughout Union County, providing new recreation opportunities as well as improving corridors for nature conservation,” said Commissioner Board Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “This is a big step forward for our public parks and our residents.”
“Opportunities to expand and improve open space in Union County are extremely rare, and this property is an especially important one in terms of environmental sensitivity and the availability of land for free and open use by the public. We are very proud to continue Union County’s long tradition of acting on strong public support for land conservation throughout Union County,” said Commissioner Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded, who chairs the Commissioner Board’s Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Board.
Berkeley Heights Township Mayor Angie Devanney said, “Today is a great day for Berkeley Heights. We began this journey in early 2019 when I approached the County Commissioners Open Space committee about the acquisition of vacant land as green space after the closure of Berkeley Caterers. Open space has always been, and continues to be, a priority of my administration.”
“My sincerest gratitude to Chairman Al Mirabella for making the trek to Berkeley Heights in May to discuss the vision for the area which can include walking trails and other passive recreation for our residents. I would like to thank all of the County Commissioners for investing in the future of Berkeley Heights,” concluded Mayor Devanney.
Plans for acquiring the property were first set in motion in 2018, when Mayor Devanney and Union County Manager Edward Oatman toured the property and discussed future use as County parkland with the owner.
The first parts of the Union County park system were assembled in the 1920’s by conservationists, who were becoming alarmed about rapid development and pollution along rivers in the area. They enlisted the Olmsted brothers, sons of the renowned landscape architect Frederick Olmsted, to design an interconnected system of riverside parks and open spaces.
The first parts of the park system encompassed a total of 2,000 acres. With public support, the system grew to more than 4,000 acres by 1930. The park system now encompasses more than 6,760 acres hosting a range of athletic and passive recreation uses as well as nature conservation and historic preservation.
The Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund was overwhelmingly approved by public referendum in 2000, with the initial goal of adding 100 acres of land to the County parks system – a challenging goal considering the pace of development in Union County throughout the 20th century.
The Trust Fund has exceeded its goal with the addition of more than 300 acres since 2000, including formerly developed sites that have been rehabilitated for parkland.
The acquisition of the Springfield Avenue property will be covered by the Trust Fund at an anticipated cost of $2,560,000.00. As a condition of the sale, the current owner is demolishing the vacant building on the property.
For more information about the Union County parks system visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation.
For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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