PASSAIC — A forgotten park in an often-overlooked part of town is finally getting the attention it deserves, city officials said.
Once considered a hidden gem and tucked away in a corner just off the Monroe Street Bridge, North Pulaski Park is now derelict and underused despite the area’s dense population.
That will soon change as the National Park Service announced that the park has been approved for a $3.3 million legacy grant.
National Park Service Director Chuck Sams visited the park Thursday and noted that the city is the only one in the state and one of 26 in the country to commit to the $61.1 million Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership -Grants involved.
“This is the model for what we should be doing,” Sams said. “We have to invest in these areas.”
Passaic met the National Park Service standard for providing much-needed recreation and green space in urban areas. Passaic has a population density of 22,000 per square mile.
More:Passaic is busy raising $2.8 million in funding from Green Acres to upgrade parklands
“I’ve been told there are 13,000 people within a half-mile radius of this park,” he said, adding he can’t wait to see young families using the park.
Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said projects like Pulaski meet the agency’s goal of providing access to open space, recreation and green space for urban centers.
“The plan is to sow justice and bring hope to the people,” LaTourette said.
County officials said the federal money accounts for about half of the money needed to bring the park back into shape. County Assistant Engineer Nordan Murphy said preliminary estimates for the North Pulaski remake are about $6 million.
A new playground, fitness stations for adults and hiking trails are planned. The retaining wall needs to be rehabilitated and the site rehabilitated if necessary.
New pathways will connect North Pulaski to Dundee Island Park, which underwent a recent $12 million renovation, and to the new parklands acquired when the city bought the rail line’s tracks.
The county also plans to convert the railroad bridge into a pedestrian bridge. Garfield plans to create greenways across the river that would connect the footbridge to greenways that Passaic is building on the west bank of the river.
City Council President Gary Schaer said he was pleased to see the state and federal governments join forces with city and council officials to restore the parklands in this part of the city.
“Anything can be polished and made useful,” Schaer said. With such partnerships “you show what can be.”
Despite approval, the park project is still a long way off. Parks officials said the city has more paperwork to fill out for the grant.
LaTourette said that given DEP’s recent funding priorities, Passaic may be eligible for additional funding.
More:Green trails take shape along the Passaic River, promising acres of parkland
Additional grants are set to be announced and reprioritized to increase equity and quality of life for the state’s city dwellers.
“I think we should be able to cobble something together,” said La Tourette.
Murphy anticipates that plans for North Pulaski should be finalized by the end of this year and applications for permits should be submitted to the state DEP by early this year.
Matt Fagan is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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