March 28, 2001
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DI VINCENZO & WATSON ANNOUNCE TOURS OF COUNTY PARKS.
Newark, New Jersey - At a press conference this afternoon at the Hall of Records, Essex County Freeholder President Joseph DiVincenzo and Vice President Blonnie Watson announced a comprehensive schedule of “walk and talk” tours they will host in 19 county parks, 3 county reservations, 3 county golf courses, and Turtle Back Zoo. Park organizations, local and county officials, and the general public will be invited to take part in the tours which will be conducted over the course of a 7-week period beginning on Monday, April 9th at Branch Brook Park in Newark, and concluding on Wednesday, May 23rd at Mills Reservation in Upper Montclair.
For each of the 21 separate 1 ½-hour tours, participants will congregate at a pre-determined gathering point where they will meet their County and local elected officials and hear a presentation of projects underway and/or planned for that park by representatives of the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs. That will be followed by a question and answer period during which attendees may offer their concerns and suggestions, and then by a walking (or driving) tour of the park/reservation/golf course/zoo.
Joined by several members of the Freeholder Board and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, Freeholder President DiVincenzo explained that this initiative is another example of his efforts, that of the entire Board, and of the Sheriff, to bring County government to the residents of Essex County. He likened it to the decision made in 1995 (when he was elected to the first of his seven terms as President) to move Freeholder meetings to locations throughout the county outside the traditional venue at the Hall of Records in Newark. “We want to hear as many of the concerns and ideas as we can, and by bringing this government directly to the people who use the parks, in their parks, we’ll be in a great position to learn”, said DiVincenzo. He went on to add, “We want to show our support for the members of park organizations who have been volunteering their time to improve our parks. By coming to them, rather than sitting back waiting for them to come to us, we will hopefully re-energize them while also demonstrating the respect and appreciation we have for their efforts.”
Flanked by County Administrator Ronald Manzella, Chief Administrative Officer George Dredden, and Parks Director Daniel Salvante, DiVincenzo and Freeholder Vice President Watson emphasized that the tours are a joint effort of the Freeholder Board and County Executive James Treffinger, and that they are being coordinated and organized with the complete cooperation of the Department of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs. “Improving and reviving our parks is a common goal of this Board, this County Executive, and his Administration”, said DiVincenzo, “and these tours once again demonstrate our mutual commitment to work together on behalf of the people we were elected to serve.”
DiVincenzo and Watson also noted that these tours mark the convergence of many positive developments that bode well for the future of the County’s century-old park system. They pointed to the fact that the Essex County Recreation & Open Space Trust Fund has grown to approximately $7 million, that the Master Plan commissioned by the Trust Fund Advisory Board, which will chart the course for putting the Trust Fund proceeds to their best use, is nearing completion, and that the Trust Fund has already made it possible to increase the maintenance staff by 55 workers. They also congratulated the Administration on the successful receipt of a $250,000 loan and a $250,000 grant from Green Acres for improvements in West Side Park, and applauded them for the recent submission of two more grant applications: a $1.9 million project for improvements in the Middle Division of Branch Brook Park; and a $16.75 million multi-parks project for seven urban parks (Branch Brook Park – Southern Division, Watsessing Park, Orange Park, Vailsburg Park, Irvington Park, and Ivy Hill Park).
“Things are really beginning to come together”, said Freeholder Vice President Blonnie Watson, “and we believe these tours will add to the momentum.” She went on to add that, “reaching out to the people who use the parks, and then walking through their park with them to see their concerns, will truly help us appreciate what has to be done”. She also emphasized that the Board, armed with this knowledge, will be better prepared for the 2001 Budget review process soon to begin.
“Our goal is to bring all the players together”, said DiVincenzo. “We’re all on the same team and share the same goal: to work together to make our parks the best they can be. The time is right and these tours offer a great opportunity for all of us to reinforce the lines of communication and the rapport that will enable us to move forward together”.