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the east orange parks master plan executive summary City of East Orange Open Space and Recreation Element Update Adopted by the City of East Orange Planning Board September 4, 2013


This report is a summary of the 2013 East Orange Parks Master Plan. The full report and its appendices are available under separate cover and can be obtained from the City of East Orange Department of Policy, Planning, and Development. The Master Plan effort was led by the City of East Orange Department of Policy, Planning, and Development. The consultant team was led by Wells Appel, with the Nishuane Group, Toole Recreation Planning, Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, and VJ Associates.


Elmwood Park has great structure and history, but needs physical improvements and an update for today’s users.

The purpose of this plan is to update the City of East Orange 2006 Comprehensive Master Plan, provide a roadmap for improving parks and recreation in the city, and provide a resource for pursuing additional funding and grant opportunities. Parks and recreation in East Orange once held a place of prominence in the country and was widely regarded as a model for its innovative management and investment in urban parks and recreation. Officials from other municipalities would make the trek to East Orange to learn from its approach and tour its parks. The quality of life in the city was so great that in 1921, the population was projected to climb to 122,000 by 1971. Today’s population hovers near 70,000. The parks are a vehicle for change in East Orange. Investing in parks and recreation will have an enormous impact on the quality of life in the city.

Residents will be happier, healthier, and take more pride in their city; property values will increase; air quality will improve; stormwater will be better managed; communities will be brought closer together; and new residents and businesses will be drawn to the city. Economically, studies have shown that quality of life comes right after location and availability of workforce as a key factor in determining where to open a business. Parks and recreation are a major quality of life component. Research shows that every dollar invested by a city or metropolitan area in parks and recreation has a return of $1.70 (Crompton 37). MAJOR ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN • Improvements to all existing parks to make them

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precious valued public spaces to be used and treasured by people of all ages for many generations yet to come. • Development of strategies for the design, planning, maintenance and programming of parks to ensure their long-term sustainability. • Use of creative place making techniques to reflect the community in the parks. • Reunification of the city through park connector streets, gateways, public art, and a new deck park over Interstate I-280. • Strategies to increase usable park and recreation space without reducing tax rateables and build understanding that great parks foster economic development. • Identification of alternative methods of supporting parks and recreation through partnerships, sponsorships, civic engagement, and private revenue generation. • Suggested reorganization of the management and administration of parks and recreation. • Generate public consensus for park revitalization and a call to action for citizens to become engaged

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in park stewardship. • Delineation of a phased implementation strategy with budget cost estimates for parks and recreation improvements. THE PLANNING PROCESS Many partners were involved in the development of this plan. Civic engagement was the hallmark of the planning process. Focus groups, interviews, and public meetings generated valuable input from the people of East Orange, community organizations, and key stakeholders. The information and community perspectives were used to develop the initiatives and recommendations in this plan. It reflects a broad consensus of public opinion and user needs. The Department of Policy, Planning, and Development in the City of East Orange spearheaded the effort. In 2011, the city selected a consultant team led by Wells Appel (landscape architects), with the Nishuane Group (community planners), Toole Recreation Planning (parks and recreation planners), Langan Engineering and Environmental Services (civil engineers), and VJ Associates (construction cost estimating). The project commenced in January 2013 and was substantially complete by July 2013. The consultant team conducted in-depth research,


analyzed existing conditions, and explored national trends and ideas that could take root in East Orange. THE MASTER PLAN The Master Plan is a comprehensive set of recommendations for the revitalization of East Orange’s parks and recreation facilities. The recommendations are put into a context that will lead to the establishment of a system that will organizationally and physically connect them through effective management, programming and maintenance. A LIVING DOCUMENT The Master Plan is a guide for future implementation projects that will be necessary for the City of East Orange to achieve the goals established in this plan. While there may be different views about specific recommendations or projects, the goals were arrived at through extensive public involvement and represent core principles and community consensus. The challenge is to build momentum for implementing the plan. Every success, no matter how small, is a step forward in returning the parks of East Orange to their former glory and renown.The plan and its recommendations should be reviewed annually

in light of changing needs and opportunities. The key is to keep moving forward in harmony with the core principles and goals established by the community in the East Orange Parks Master Plan. REGIONAL CONTEXT + OVERVIEW OF EAST ORANGE East Orange is located in Essex County, in the upper half of New Jersey. Downtown Newark is a close ten minute drive or five minute train ride to the east, while New York City is about a half hour drive or less than an hour by train. The city is situated between the Watchung Mountains to the west and Newark Bay and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It is surrounded by a wealth of recreational opportunities, including a number of Essex County Parks within a short drive or transit ride from the city. Essex County established the first county park system in the country and almost all the parks were designed by the famed Olmsted Brothers. The city is largely a bedroom community with many residents commuting to Newark, New York, or other areas within Essex County for employment. As such, the city is well connected to the region through New Jersey Transit train lines and bus routes. Interstate 280, running east and west, and the Garden State Parkway, running north and south are the primary

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vehicular connections between the city and points throughout the region. The boundaries for East Orange were first layed out in 1863 and the city was incorporated in 1909. Prior to extensive development, there were reportedly numerous springs, brooks, woods, and bog lands scattered throughout East Orange. However, by 1921, the city plan reported that “East Orange contains no ponds and only three small streams... the wooded tracts have almost entirely disappeared...There is scarcely any natural scenery left in the community” (City Plan Commission). Today, the only remaining open water is the channelized segment of the Second River flowing along Soverel Park. Due to the highly developable nature of the topography and the rapid pace of growth, the majority of the city has been developed, rendering parks, open space, and any reminders of nature extremely valuable. Today, East Orange is roughly 4 miles square and houses close to 70,000 residents, making it one of the densest municipalities in the country. New Jersey is ranked 1st in the country for population density, while East Orange is ranked 12th out of 566 municipalities in the State. It is served by two New Jersey Transit train stations and by an extensive

system of bus routes. The city is sharply divided into north and south right across its center by Interstate 280, and into east and west by the Garden State Parkway. I-280 was constructed in the 1960s and, as happened in many cities, contributed to the relocation of much of the tax base to the suburbs. City Hall and the majority of civic buildings are located near the center of the city, close to the intersection of the interstate and the parkway, and adjacent to one of the city’s train stations. Five distinct wards make up the city and a strong spirit of friendly competition exists among them. Each ward has a unique character and its own set of concerns and issues. The diverse race and ethnicity of the citizens of East Orange is special and sets it apart from other cities and the state. While only about 13% of New Jersey is African American, 86% of East Orange is African American. And within this number, a whole range of diversity resides. Regarding ancestral origins, the population contains citizens from Haiti (3,400 individuals according to the US Census), Jamaica (3,400), Guyana (2,900), Trinidad and Tobago (1,200), Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, and many others. The hispanic and

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The Board of Education operates its own grounds, which include Robeson Stadium and the grounds of the East Orange Campus High School. Currently, these facilities are difficult or expensive to use for the general public. The master plan recommends a renewed relationship between parks and recreation and the schools for the benefit of the city as a whole.

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city, comprising a total of 45 acres. Two large county parks serve the city directly: Watsessing Park to the north and Monte Irvin Orange Park to the east.

There are a total of 9 municipal parks throughout the EAST ORANGE OVAL

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COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT The parks master plan is rooted in community engagement. Many of the ideas proposed emerged from this process. To engage the community, the consultant team talked with more than 100 East Orange residents, government employees, and representatives of nonprofit and recreation groups in the city. A survey was conducted that received 86 responses, most of them from children, teens and older adults; the types of residents most likely to use local parks. A Facebook page was created to share news, events, and to post images of the developing master plan. Aside from Rowley Park, which recently won an award for its renovation, all of the municipal parks are in need of significant renovation. One major finding is that there is very little opportunity to experience nature within the parks (or within the city as a whole). Also, many residents expressed feeling unsafe in the parks, despite evidence that crime has dropped considerably. There should also be

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>>> EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE EAST ORANGE PARKS MASTER PLAN

more opportunities for all generations and ages to enjoy the parks. It was found that the parks do not reflect the diversity of the current population of the city, and do not reflect their communities. Other key issues and ideas raised by residents include: better use of the parks’ fieldhouses; more attractive plantings and furnishings; rubberized tracks; more sports programming and more basketball; more after school programs for children; more programming and facilities related to arts and culture; some substantial improvements should happen quickly to demonstrate the city’s commitment; and residents want to continue to be involved in the planning process for parks and recreation improvements. Over 50 residents provided contact information and stated their interest


in joining a Park Friends group. One of the major recommendations of this master plan is to facilitate and nurture an extensive Parks Friends system throughout the city to take advantage of this valuable resource. Rooted in a thorough existing conditions analysis of each park and its neighborhood, and after listening to the community, ideas and visions for each park and for the city as a whole took shape. The following pages present the major concepts that arose from this process.

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a vision for soverel park

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CELEBRATE THE SECOND RIVER IN SOVEREL PARK

MORE AREAS TO GATHER, SIT, STROLL, AND JOG

MORE SPACE FOR NATURE IN THE PARKS

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a vision for memorial park

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AT MEMORIAL, CREATE AN ACTIVE PARK AT THE CITY CENTER THAT BECOMES A MODEL FOR A NEW TYPE OF PARK: THE COMMUNITY LIBRARY PARK

PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITY FOR ALL AGES OF USERS

OUTDOOR SPACE FOR PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS

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MEMORIAL PARK

Shown here is Washington Square Park in New York.

NATURAL ELEMENTS IN PLAY AREAS TO INCLUDE SAND, WATER, PLANTS, AND STONE Shown here is Riverplay Discovery Village Playground, in Eugene, Oregon.

OUTDOOR PERFORMANCE SPACE

COMMUNITY GARDENS IN PARKS + VACANT LOTS

OUTDOOR FITNESS EQUIPMENT

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COLORFUL, TOUGH PLANTINGS; MOST NATIVE TO NORTHERN NEW JERSEY


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WELCOME A VARIETY OF PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES FOR ALL GENERATIONS


UTILIZE PEDESTRIAN SCALE LIGHTING TO MAKE THE PARKS MORE WELCOMING AT NIGHT

KIOSKS FOR CONCESSIONS

RENOVATE THE HISTORIC FIELD HOUSE TO BE OF MORE USE TO THE COMMUNITY

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a vision for the east orange oval

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AMENITIES FOR LARGE GATHERINGS: PICNIC AREAS, CONCESSIONS, RESTROOMS, AND A VARIETY OF ACTIVITIES

RUBBERIZED TRACKS AND WALKING PATHS

INTERCEPT STORMWATER IN RAIN GARDENS AND SWALES

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PUBLIC ART TO COMMEMORATE THE HISTORY OF THE NEGRO BASEBALL LEAGUES Shown is the work of The Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia.

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A MULTI-PURPOSE SYNTHETIC TURF FIELD WILL HOLD UP TO THE SPORTING EVENTS HOSTED AT THE OVAL

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a vision for all city parks SOVEREL PARK

for inter-generational use.

• The Second River: a natural landscape at the river’s edge with an open air pavilion, seating terraces, and meandering paths.

ELMWOOD PARK

• Raingardens and swales to collect stormwater. • Upgraded, durable and flexible athletic fields. • New courts for Tennis, Basketball, Volleyball and Handball • Welcoming signage, pedestrian lighting and ornamental planting. • A bridge across the Second River to the other side. Tie into a linear park along the abandoned rail corridor- a path to connect with Watsessing Park. MEMORIAL PARK • A new type of park—the community library park— will build fruitful collaborations and takes full advantage of the park’s central location and civic connections. • A wide open lawn for unprogrammed play or for watching performances in the bandshell. • Spaces for younger and older children to play – separate junior basketball courts just for kids. • Activities for both passive and active uses and

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• Space for events and an active center of community celebration, pride and history. Renovate the field house inside and out to be the community centerpiece it once was. • Sidewalks all the way around the park. • Pedestrian lighting and upgraded entrances for a safer and more inviting park. • Commemorate the history of the Elmwood basketball courts through public art. • Rubberized track and renovated sports field. • Attractive plantings, meandering paths, game tables, exercise equipment and places to picnic. Provide passive and active activities for all park users. WASHINGTON PLAYGROUND • Programming for diverse park users: a dog park, a skate park and community gardens. • Allow for unprogrammed play and pick-up softball games on the open lawn. • Renovated basketball court and a new field house. • Play areas for both younger and older children.


• Attractive landscaping, rain gardens, and upgraded entrances. THE OVAL • An artificial turf field for baseball, soccer, or football with plenty of spectator seating and all the amenities necessary for large sporting events. • An oval-shaped rubberized track for walking and running.

edges. HOFFMAN PARK • Lush ornamental plantings and a universally accessible path make the park a neighborhood amenity. • A seating area with a brick seatwall and water feature inspired by the history of the ‘Boiling Spring.’ • A creatively designed bus shelter.

• Public Art to commemorate the Negro Baseball League.

COLUMBIAN PLAYGROUND

• Connect the Oval to the Fellowship Civic Center.

• Pedestrian lighting and universally accessible paths.

• Attractive natural planting areas; raingardens and swales; and a winding perimeter path with plenty of benches for passive park users to enjoy. FRANCIS HAIRE PLAYGROUND • The swimming pool becomes a sprayground. • A new field house with a shade structure gives parents a place to watch their kids play. • A new urban plaza with seating, shade trees, and space to gather to welcome park visitors from Grove Street.

• Accommodation for inter-generational use.

• A new play area to stimulate with elements of natural play. • Open lawn, meandering paths, plenty of seating, and game tables. • New programming with community gardens and a skate park. • An enhanced field for soccer and baseball games. • A renovated field house and expanded pool deck.

• New trees and a creatively designed bus stop to increase visibility, safety, and comfort at the park

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CREATE A DECK PARK OVER I-280 TO BRING THE NORTH AND SOUTH SIDES OF THE CITY TOGETHER AND CREATE A NEW OUTDOOR PERFORMANCE VENUE THAT COULD BECOME A REGIONAL DRAW AND ECONOMIC DRIVER.

Klyde Warren Park, Designed By The OfямБce Of James Burnett, was built over a freeway and reconnects downtown Dallas (Photo: Mei-chun Jau).

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a connected citywide park system

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USE LIGHTING AND ART TO MAKE PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS OVER I-280 MORE ATTRACTIVE AND WELCOMING

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OPPORTUNITIES FOR INCREASING PARK SPACE WITHIN EAST ORANGE INCLUDE:

• Pocket Parks that occupy undersized or city-owned vacant lots; • Urban plazas within commercial areas; • Train station parks, in the areas below and around the elevated tracks; • Schoolyard Parks, in partnership with the Board of Education; • Library Parks, in partnership with the public libraries; • A Linear Park along the abandoned rail corridor near Soverel; • An East Orange Gateway Park in part or all of Hollywood Plaza; and • A Deck Park over I-280.

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CREATE PARK CONNECTOR STREETS TO TIE THE PARKS TOGETHER. USE NEW PLANTING, SPECIAL PAVING, BICYCLE LANES, PUBLIC � ������ ART, LIGHTING, SIGNAGE, AND STREET ��������������� FURNISHINGS TO MAKE THESE STREETS ���������� SPECIAL.

Shown here is ‘Lightspan’, in Memphis, a project by Electroland.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE EAST ORANGE PARKS MASTER PLAN >>>

25


ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT The Park Master Plan recommends a strategic organizational framework to harness the parks and recreation functions now dispersed among multiple city departments. The new configuration centralizes the responsibility for planning, directing, controlling, and evaluating parks and recreation in the proposed Parks & Recreation Department. A Certified Parks and Recreation Professional with education, training and expertise in all functional areas of parks and recreation would steer the Department toward re-establishing the City of East Orange as a leader in urban parks nationwide. Under the auspices of professional leadership and a unified department, the City will undertake the following measures to deliver sustainable parks and recreation services to the community: • Demonstrate leadership and vision in moving East Orange forward in reclaiming its status as a leading parks and recreation system nationwide, • Organize support for parks and recreation through Friends Groups, pubic private partnerships and interdepartmental collaboration, • Create an information management system

26

>>> EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE EAST ORANGE PARKS MASTER PLAN

to guide the effective allocation of funding and staff, for informed decision-making, and increased awareness about the benefits of the City’s parks and recreation efforts, • Develop a maintenance management system, and • Establish park planning as a centralized function and incorporate municipal interdepartmental collaboration and public participation as an on-going element of park planning. PROGRAMS Programs are the single most important factor in spurring the use of parks by people of all ages. The Park Master Plan recommends that the Parks & Recreation Department: • Develop a program management plan with programming that is at least one year ahead of implementation, • Adopt three roles in recreation programming: direct provider of programs, facilitator of programs by other providers, and promoter of recreation opportunities by serving as the “go-to” source of realtime information about activities and contacts,


• Concentrate on active healthy living, connecting people with nature (especially youth), and the arts. Continue to facilitate sports, a function that the City already does effectively. • Collaborate with the Library, the Division of Senior Services, and the YMCA in community programming, and • Create a formalized promotional program to inform people of all ages about parks and recreation opportunities. Use a mix of traditional method and social media for outreach. FINANCING While City support for parks and recreation is crucial, the City of East Orange cannot provide, or be expected to provide, all that is necessary for an excellent parks and recreation system. A mix of public and private funding is required to support the kinds of improvements and programs that emerged as important to the public in the public participation process for this plan. Creating private support for public recreation is relatively new to the City and this plan provides direction in accomplishing that goal through astute management. Recommendations include the following:

through a mix of public and private resources. Include increased city support balanced with fees and charges, partnerships, sponsorships, grants, gifts, donations, bequests, concessions, leases, rentals and sales. • Develop a revenue policy to guide the generation of private revenue sources, • Establish a financial management system that includes policies on setting and collecting fees, handling of cash, and reporting, • Adopt an outcome-based financial management system that links the allocation of resources to the benefits generated. Promote the benefits achieved as a strategy to build support for continued investment in parks and recreation, • Develop a five-to-seven year Capital Improvement Program to enable strategic holistic improvements. Strive to leverage the Open Space Tax proceeds with other funding sources such as grants.

• Increase support for parks and recreation

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE EAST ORANGE PARKS MASTER PLAN >>>

27


IMPLEMENTING THE PARKS MASTER PLAN

In Year Two and Beyond:

In Year One:

There are many improvements recommended for parks and recreation. To fully complete all recommendations, a twenty-year time frame may be realistic. All high-priority improvements could be made in the first five years, with medium- and low-priority improvements following.

Following adoption of the master plan, the suggested actions for the city include the following: • Establish leadership for Parks and Recreation to ensure efficiency, sustainability, and accountability; • Make decisions on how Parks and Recreation is organized; • Outline a strategy and allocate city resources for continued public involvement through a network of Park Friends groups; • Undertake the pilot project(s) to create momentum and set the stage for how future improvements are made (the master plan identified high priority improvements at Elmwood Park, Memorial Park, and Columbian Playground as potential pilot projects); and • Make decisions on what data and information to track throughout the year in order to create an Annual Parks and Recreation Report which will guide future planning efforts, increase accountability, transparency, and efficiency.

28

>>> EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: THE EAST ORANGE PARKS MASTER PLAN

On average, $1 - $3 million per year is shown to capture the physical improvements that arose out of the parks master planning and community engagement process.

East Orange Parks Master Plan Executive Summary 2013/09/04  

Executive Summary for the East Orange Parks Master Plan

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