11-15-19 | Department

Granting Wishes

Residents Weigh In on New Playground
by Garrett Conway, Remington & Vernick Engineers, Inc.

Based on a survey of residents of Montclair and Bloomfield, N.J., conducted by the Park Conservancy Group, equipment and amenities were selected for Brookdale Park's new playground, which was designed by Remington & Vernick Engineers who also handled the engineering and inspection services for the construction. Among the desires of the communities were fencing, ADA compliant elements, a patterned rubberized safety surface and separate areas with durable equipment for children of different ages.
A central island that was part of the old playground was retained but a seat wall was installed around it, along with three push-button, columnar water misters.
The play area for the older children included ten swings, a naturalistic rock wall, a 26-foot-tall net climber, a play structure and a whirler. More than 17,000 square feet of poured-in-place rubber surfacing was specified with an integral underdrain system to enhance the safety of the children.
For the younger children, the play area encompasses six swings, a play structure, music set, fiberglass hollow log, a tot-sized mushroom table and mushroom chairs and three larger-than-life climbable animal sculptures. A shade sail was also provided for the play area.

Remington & Vernick Engineers (RVE) was retained by the county of Essex for landscape architectural design, engineering and inspection services for the construction of a new playground at Brookdale Park in the townships of Montclair and Bloomfield, N.J. RVE was tasked with creating a final project that was accepted by residents in both communities. Working closely with the Park Conservancy Group and the project stakeholders, RVE designed a state-of-the-art facility that incorporates the historical components of the site with the vision of the residents. A key component to the success of the project was early public outreach and involvement.

The local Conservancy Group conducted a survey of local residents asking what components they wanted in the new park. The results were evaluated and the playground equipment was chosen according to these goals. The survey found the majority favored incorporating the following elements into the new playground design: fencing, ADA compliant elements, a rubberized safety surface with designs and a complementing theme that appeals to all age groups, separate areas for children from ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12, a dual-height drinking fountain, benches and trash receptacles, signage and durable play features.


Historically, the area known as the "corral" featured log fences and tree trunks for children to play on. In more recent history, the existing playground featured a central landscaped island with separate play areas that radiated from it, resulting in a disjointed, segregated environment that made it difficult for parents to watch their children. Using a new layout, RVE kept the existing central island and added a seat wall around it and three water misters to provide a cooling spray during the summer months. RVE also designed the two separate, custom play areas, both nature-themed, on either side of the island. The color of the play surfacing selected was tan with a ribbon of blue "river" through it. Benches for childcare-givers were thoughtfully located throughout the play areas to give an optimal line of sight. Benches used were the 8-foot-long, Essex County standard bench from DuMor, Inc. set on a 4' by 9' concrete foundation.

The path to the playground was re-rerouted to offer a bypass and the entrance was widened to allow for maintenance vehicles. Paved areas near the playground entrances offer a place to park bicycles and strollers. A second entrance to the playground was created to improve circulation. A retaining wall was added to tie into the existing grades. A new two-tier drinking fountain with bottle filler was included near the eastern entrance. Additional landscaping was provided to buffer the playground from the path and provide seasonal color. Large deciduous trees were included within the playground to provide shade. Picnic tables were placed on the southwest side of the site, just outside the playground areas within the shaded groves of existing trees. Both play areas and the central island were enclosed as a single space with four-foot-high, black vinyl-clad chain link fence.

RVE worked with Gametime for product selection. Tec-Con of East Orange was awarded the publicly bid contract for the construction. The project cost was approximately $1.2 million and was funded with a grant from the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund. The project design was from October 2014 to March 2015 and the construction duration was from June 2015 to October 2015.

"The playground in Brookdale Park is one of the most heavily used facilities in our parks system and the area has become a place for children and their parents to meet and socialize," states Essex County executive Joseph DiVincenzo. "Partnering with the Brookdale Park Conservancy, we were able to redevelop the playground and create a unique experience for our children that integrates the history and natural features of the park."
Deputy mayor Robert Russo adds, "It was a great combination of two towns, Montclair and Bloomfield... working together with the county. It's a great example of intergovernmental cooperation."

As seen in LASN magazine, November 2019.

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