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Branch Brook Park Alliance Mission
The mission of the Branch Brook Park Alliance is to accomplish objectives it considers essential to the restoration and revitalization of Essex County Branch Brook Park, conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. in 1867 and designed by the Olmsted Firm. These include:
- to embrace and uplift an undervalued treasure;
- to commit to restoring this once-magnificent landscape work of art to its highest standards of use and beauty;
- to enlist a cadre of visionaries who support and sustain these efforts;
- to bring together a multitude of people of all ages and diverse backgrounds in the ongoing renewal and care of "their" park;
- to unveil a restored masterwork, one with the power to change the character of our city; enhance the appeal of our county; and elicit joy, pride and a sense of ownership in citizens throughout our state; and,
- to celebrate the revival of what makes cities most vibrant: a special place where the everchanging beauty of nature and man’s artistry and invention can soothe, heal and inspire.
The Branch Brook Park Alliance envisions a park for use and beauty that, as an exemplar of American landscape artistry, is:
- a place of reflection and relaxation;
- a hub of activity; and,
- a destination attracting hundreds of thousands from home and abroad.
Local residents and other people of goodwill formed the Branch Brook Park Alliance in the fall of 1999 to help stem the tide of deterioration occurring throughout the Park. Joining with the Essex County Executive, Joseph N. DiVincenzo and the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs, the Branch Brook Park Alliance is providing design expertise and funding to help Essex County plan and prioritize projects to revitalize and restore the park.
To date, the Branch Brook Park Alliance has raised $7,400,000 and Essex County has raised $18,600,000 for a total of $26,000,000. These funds have caused the following work to be accomplished:
- commissioned and completed the Cultural Landscape Report, Treatment and Management Plan/li>
- recreated the original Southern Division lake edge plantings based on the Olmsted Firm’s design
- renovated of the Middle Division Ballfields utilized by more than 5,000 children and young adults, including a $2,000,000 hazmat remediation and new field houses designed in keeping with the park’s historic structures
- implemented the Olmsted Firm’s original designs for the path, fencing and entrances along Lake Street in the Middle Division
- completed an inventory of all trees in the park
- rebuilt the historic Octagon Shelter following the original Carrère and Hastings design
- restored the Extension Ballfields and surrounding landscape in keeping with the Olmsted Firm’s design
- increased the cherry tree plantings by over 3,000 trees (16 varieties) throughout the park in keeping with the Olmsted Firm’s original design intent, making it the largest collection in any one locale in the United States
- opened entrances on the west side of the Extension/Cherry Blossom Display providing greater access from the surrounding neighborhoods, including residents of Newark Public Housing bordering the park
- completed a comprehensive waterway study as the necessary first step towards a complete restoration of the park’s hydrological systems
The Branch Brook Park Alliance, in partnership with the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, also provides community-based programs and outreach initiatives. These include:
- Annual Fishing and Boating Derby for school-aged children
- Farmers’ and Community Market
- Community Lecture Series
- Movies and Dancing Under the Stars
- Global Volunteer Day with Prudential
- New Jersey Symphony Independence Day Concert and Fireworks Display
- Annual Cherry Blossom Festival
About Branch Brook Park
Branch Brook Park is distinguished by being the first county park to be opened for public use in the United States. It has been placed on both the New Jersey (1980) and National (1981) Registers of Historic Places.
Located in the City of Newark and bordered at the southern end by U.S. Route 280, the park crosses Bloomfield Avenue, Park Avenue, and Heller Parkway, terminating near the Newark/Belleville line.
The park is nearly 4 miles long and averages 1/4 mile in width. At 359.72 acres, it is the largest developed park in the County. It features a combination of open meadowland and small patches of woodland on gently rolling terrain.
Named for a branch brook that flowed through the valley into the Passaic River, the park was originally intended to remain for passive recreation, but today is used largely for athletics activities as well as strolling, birdwatching and more passive activities.
More than 2,000 cherry trees that blossom during April are greater both in variety and number than the famed Washington, D.C., display the result of a 1927 gift from Mrs. Felix Fuld and the Bamberger family. At its height the Cherry Blossom Festival attracts over 10,000 people a day.
Distinguishing Features of the Park:
- A large lake, meandering streams, and in the north, the Second River channel.
- Spectacular view of the Sacred Heart Cathedral across the lake.
- Playgrounds, ballfields, basketball, tennis, horseshoes.
- The famed "Cherry Blossomland."
- The park system maintenance center and garage.
- The park system administration building, built in 1915 - listed on both the state and national historic registers.
- The northern division meadow is one of the largest recreational open green spaces to be found in Essex.
- Senior citizen center, originally a boat landing shelter.
- Walled remains of the old Newark reservoir.
- Roller rink--completed in 1995, site of the park system's Centennial Birthday Celebration.
- Four-mile park drive.
- Pedestrian bridges, Park & Bloomfield Avenue bridges and the railroad bridges in northern extension are striking architectural features.
- Ballantine Gateway.
- Meeker Mound Pavilion.
- Sculptured lions that flank a formal boat landing were originally stationed in front of the old Newark Prudential building.
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