Newark’s Jesse Allen Park Opens New Recreation Facilities (NJ)

Newark, N.J. 9/1/2009: Mayor Cory A. Booker will join the Central Ward’s Springfield community, The Trust for Public Land, donors, and partners to celebrate the first of three planned renovations of eight-acre Jesse Allen Park.

The renovations to the southern quarter of the park were completed yesterday and include state-of-the-art facilities for basketball, volleyball, tennis, and for the first time in a Newark-operated park, skateboarding.

“Every day we are making Newark greener with the renovation and creation of new parks and recreation facilities in all of our city’s wards,” said Mayor Booker. “Last month we opened Nat Turner Park, our largest City-owned park, thanks to the support we received from The Trust for Public Land and other community partners. Today we are excited to open our city’s first state-of-the-art skateboarding facility in our newly renovated Jesse Allen Park. Brick by brick, neighborhood by neighborhood, we are creating a better, stronger and prouder Newark.”

The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) supported the construction of the tennis courts, which include four Quick Start? courts designed to accommodate young children and build their interest in tennis-the only Quick Start? courts in New Jersey. USTA Eastern will also be an ongoing resource for training tennis instructors and assisting tennis programs in obtaining equipment.

TPL worked with the City of Newark and the community over several years to identify the types of improvements needed. Renovations will be phased over several years, delivering much-needed recreational facilities to the neighborhood as quickly as they can be funded and developed. Jesse Allen Park is the second-largest City-owned park in Newark and is managed by the City’s Recreation Department. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark’s Central Ward Unit is adjacent to the park, has contributed to its development, and will support the City’s programming.

“Our work with the city and the community to renovate Jesse Allen Park underscores TPL’s commitment to deliver great, safe, close-to-home recreational open space to Newark,” said Anthony Cucchi, TPL’s New Jersey state director. “Urban parks are critical for sustainable neighborhoods and for good quality of life for residents in Newark and other cities. We are thrilled that Jesse Allen Park is getting the investment and improvements it-and the Central Ward-deserves.”

This is the second park TPL and the City have dedicated this summer. In late July, Newark’s newest, and now largest, city-owned park-Nat Turner Park-opened, also in the Springfield neighborhood. The two parks combined serve more than 25,000 people including 9,000 children within a half-mile.

Construction for the second phase of Jesse Allen Park renovations will begin in spring 2010 and will transform the northern portion of the park and walkways around the playing field with a new playground and water play area, two basketball courts, sports lighting for the multi-use athletic field, game tables, new landscaping, the addition of more than thirty trees, walking paths, and sitting areas.

The final renovations-replacement of the existing grass playing field with a synthetic turf field for football, soccer, and baseball-will begin as soon as fundraising is achieved.

Participatory design is a signature of TPL’s park creation program. The process is both educational and rewarding, helping to establish a community investment in the new park and playground. As part of the Parks for People – Newark stewardship program, TPL established a committee of community members to support the City of Newark in the park’s stewardship and program planning.

Lead funding for Jesse Allen Park renovations was provided by The City of Newark, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation. Additional support was contributed by Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund, National Recreation Foundation, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program, and Victoria Foundation. The project was completed in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Newark, Friends of Jesse Allen Park, the Springfield/Belmont Super Neighborhood Council, and the United States Tennis Association.

“Creating more quality parks like this in neighborhoods throughout Newark and New Jersey’s other cities will require continued investment from the state Green Acres Program,” said Cucchi. “Park supporters should be aware that there is an important measure on the statewide ballot this November to create more parks and protect clean water for our children. We urge everyone to vote Yes on Public Question One.”

“The pace of the Newark Parks for People program has been extraordinary; and the vision and involvement of residents has been exceptional. Dodge is a firm believer in the value of urban parks and we are proud to support City and TPL efforts to reconnect people to urban lands, their neighborhoods, and each other,” said David Grant, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

This project is part of The Trust for Public Land’s Parks for People-Newark program, launched in 1995 to address the dire lack of outdoor recreational space in Newark’s neighborhoods. TPL is currently working to bring a $42.5 million investment into eleven of Newark’s parks and playgrounds. Other projects include the recently completed development of Nat Turner Park, the expansion of play space at two existing playgrounds, and park development along the Passaic River waterfront.