Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced plans to create a dog park and renovate a restroom building in Essex County Vailsburg Park in Newark, New Jersey, Friday, April 14, 2023. Photo credit: The County of Essex, New Jersey.

NEWARK, N.J. – Plans for a new dog park and restroom renovations in Vailsburg Park, Newark, were announced Friday by Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. in a prepared statement.

The improvements are part of DiVincenzo’s ongoing initiative to revitalize the Essex County Parks System and update facilities to meet the changing needs of the community.

“Members of the community came to us with the request to include a dog park and renovate the playground restroom building in Vailsburg Park,” said DiVincenzo. “The development of the dog park transforms an underutilized section of the park into a vibrant location where community members and their canine pets can gather and socialize. And the modernization of the restroom building will make it more convenient for parents and their young children to enjoy the playground.”

The dog park, located in the western section of the park, will be the sixth in the Essex County Parks System. It will be about 24,000 square feet in size and have separate fenced-in areas for small and large dogs, according to a prepared statement.

“We all realize how important our parks are for our residents and their pets. This facility will provide dog owners with a place for the canine members of their family with a place to run and play and not be on a leash,” said Commissioner Len Luciano.

The large dog area is about 13,000 square feet and the small dog area is about 11,000 square feet. The dog park will have a gated decorative entrance, agility apparatus and water fountains designed for dogs, benches, garbage cans and an information kiosk. Landscaping will be enhanced, trees will be pruned, and new pathways, sidewalks and curbing will be installed in the area.

“I congratulate Joe on another great project. Things like this mean a lot and represent important investments in our parks and neighborhoods. Dog parks are a big deal, especially in urban areas,” said Newark Councilman Anibal Ramos.

The Vailsburg Dog Park is the sixth in the Essex County Parks System. The Watsessing Dog Park in Bloomfield/East Orange opened in 2005. The South Mountain Dog Park in Maplewood/Millburn opened in 2006. The Brookdale Dog Park in Bloomfield/Montclair opened in 2007. The Hilltop Dog Park in North Caldwell opened in 2018. The Branch Brook Dog Park in Newark Opened in 2019.

“I applaud what Joe D. has done for Vailsburg Park. I know the dog park will be a big a hit and I appreciate the renovations to the restroom building. I look forward to working with Joe on even more things to make this park better,” said Pam McElveen of the Palm Street Block Association in Newark.

The existing restroom building adjacent to the children’s playground will be renovated with modern fixtures. In addition, asbestos and lead paint will be safely removed from the building; new flooring, ceiling, partitions and lighting will be installed; and plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems will be updated. Outside of the building, landscaping will be enhanced, the roof will be replaced, exterior lighting will be improved and ornamental trash receptacle, drinking fountains and benches will be installed. Walkways, pathways, curbing and other masonry items will be repairs.

“I want to thank Joe DiVincenzo. I appreciate everything he does in our parks; he makes them amazing places for our residents to enjoy,” said Newark Councilman Dupree Kelly.

French and Parrello from Wall was awarded a professional services contract for $124,500 to design the improvements, according to the prepared statement. Zenith Construction Services from Orange was awarded a publicly bid contract for $1,994,950 to perform the construction work. The Essex County Department of Public Works will monitor the project to ensure delays are avoided. It is being funded through the Essex County Capital Budget and with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. Completion is scheduled by the end of 2023.

“This is an example of how we are continually looking at opportunities to expand our recreation facilities and adapt our parks to meet the needs of our residents,” said DiVincenzo.

Revitalizing Essex County Vailsburg Park

The Ronald L. Rice Sports Complex was dedicated in 2022 and completed in 2023. It includes new football, baseball and softball fields with synthetic grass playing surfaces and a rubberized running track. The playground was modernized with new equipment and a rubberized safety surface and the restroom building by the basketball courts was renovated in 2019. The senior building received a comprehensive facelift in 2016. The six Little League baseball fields were upgraded and a synthetic grass surface was installed on one field near South Munn Avenue and Plymouth Street in 2007. In addition, decorative lighting was installed, park entrances were enhanced, ornamental fencing was installed around the park’s perimeter, and tree maintenance was performed. Earlier in 2003, new equipment and a rubberized safety surface were installed in the playground.

The Essex County Park System was created in 1895 and is the first county park system established in the United States. The Park System consists of more than 6,000 acres and has 23 parks, five reservations, an environmental center, a zoo, Treetop Adventure Course, ice skating rink, roller skating rink, three public golf courses, golf driving range, two miniature golf courses, five off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens. Vailsburg Park is 30.32 acres and is the 10th largest park within the Essex County Park System. Land for the park was purchased in 1917 and major design improvements were completed in the 1920s.

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