UNION CITY – State officials detailed how nearly $200 million in Green Acres funds will be allocated toward parks, playgrounds, open spaces and other park improvements Wednesday.

Gov. Phil Murphy made the announcement in Union City in Hudson County – the second-most densely population city in the nation, in the most densely populated county in the country, in the most densely populated state in the country. (And an important one for the Nov. 2 election, not coincidentally.)

Murphy said New Jersey is both densely populated and also the only state in the continental United States where at least 20% of land is dedicated to parks and wildlife. That’s helped significantly by the forests preserved in the Pinelands in South Jersey.

“If there was a time when access to green and recreational spaces was taken for granted in New Jersey, it ended with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Murphy said. “Over the past now 20 months, we learned first hand just how important these open spaces are, not just for our physical health but for our mental health and well-being.”

“Parks and recreation facilities are the heart and soul of healthy communities and provide essential opportunities to get outdoors to reconnect to nature and for kids to play,” he said.

The funding isn’t ultimately approved until the Legislature concurs with the approval by the Garden State Preservation Trust.

Here’s what the state says is being recommended:

  • $42.2 million in grants and loans for 49 park development projects in urban, suburban and rural communities. Nearly 84 percent of these funds are for local park development projects and land acquisitions in municipalities with what the state calls “overburdened communities.”
  • $35.8 million in grants and loans for 57 county and municipal land acquisitions projects
  • $8.8 million for acquisition projects by 14 nonprofit organizations
  • $4.9 million for park development projects by 11 nonprofit organizations
  • $2.3 million for 10 local stewardship projects
  • $901,000 for six nonprofit stewardship projects
  • $54.5 million for improvements to state parks, forests and wildlife management areas
  • $38.4 million for the state to acquire and preserve open space
  • $6 million for land acquisition, park development and historic preservation projects in overburdened communities, through a new Urban Parks initiative to promote environmental equity. Thirteen places are getting grants.
  • $4.6 million for the Blue Acres Buyout Program to purchase flood-prone properties.

Some of the Urban Parks Grants include:

  • Renovating Tippin’s Pond Park in Pennsauken with fishing docks, viewing platforms, trail improvements and volleyball courts
  • Acquiring an 11.5-acre parcel in Edison Township to create a waterfront park
  • Expanding the Holmes A. Adams Recreation Complex in Neptune City

Among the local projects approved for matching Green Acres grants and loans:

  • The second phase of improvements at Willingboro Lakes Park in Willingboro would expand parking and improve public access to the lakes and Rancocas Creek.
  • The Joseph E. Romano Sports Complex in Vineland would use its grant to develop an inclusive playground and sensory garden, exercise circuit stations around the existing running/walking track, and construct restrooms.
  • The existing grassed football field at South Delsea Drive Park in Glassboro would be replaced with a synthetic turf multi-purpose field that can be used for football, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey.
  • The former American Biltrite Rubber site at 3 Amtico Square in Trenton would be converted into a skatepark with lighting and a shade structure. Several multi-purpose game courts would be constructed at the park for bicycle polo, street soccer, tennis, basketball and volleyball. Additionally, a trail would be built along the creek toward Capital City Farm and the D &R Canal Towpath.
  • Old Bridge would develop the Cottrell Farm property over four phases. Phases 2 through 4 propose a walking/fitness trail, splash pad, community/memorial garden, gazebo and picnic grove with pavilion, playground, amphitheater, parking improvements, various landscaping upgrades, stormwater management improvements and a restroom building.
  • Brick would complete the third phase of a multi-park improvement project at Bayside Park, with playground equipment and safety surfacing, shade structures, fish bait cleaning stations and safety ladders, walkways, lighting, utilities, irrigation, security improvements, landscaping and parking lot work.
  • Improvements to the pool and playground area are planned at the Rushmore Avenue Recreational Complex in Plainfield. The kiddie pool would be replaced with a splash pad and the city would construct a new pavilion and asphalt walkway. Park benches, picnic tables, and a decorative park entranceway arch are also proposed.
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Full lists are available though these links: local/nonprofits; urban parks.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.

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