Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. announced the completion of renovations to the Essex County Verona Park Boathouse on Wednesday.
“The center room of the Verona Park Boathouse was such an under-utilized area because it was so dark and isolated. Adding new windows and installing the French doors brings more light into the room and makes that section of the building more inviting and available for additional activities,” DiVincenzo said. “Essex County Verona Park is such a beautiful destination and we are proud to have partnered with Aramark to enhance the Boathouse so it can be better used by the public."
The improvements were well received by local elected officials and members of the community.
“Wherever I go, people share with me how great the County Parks System is. It’s a pleasure to see so many people enjoy our parks. They really contribute greatly to our quality of life,” Freeholder Vice President Patricia Sebold.
The boathouse is divided into three sections: A large meeting room on the southern end of the building, the central part of the building that is used for events and kitchen area on the northern side of the building from where a private concession operates.
This project provided a comprehensive facelift to the central part of the building to make is more attractive for special events and have it available as a seating area for the concession.
“The improvements to this building are outstanding and have made this a place where people will want to come and hang out,” Freeholder Leonard Luciano said. “It’s great that the construction was completed so quickly so we can utilize the facilities for the full summer season."
The upgrades include installing new French doors that open onto the deck; opening an existing wall and installing French doors that open onto the park side; developing a new patio and seating area on the park side; installing new windows, flooring, walls, painting, light fixtures, furniture, HVAC system and fireplace; repairing the roof and making landscaping improvements. Work began in April and was completed in less than 10 weeks.
“On behalf of Verona, we’d like to thank the County Executive for what he’s done in Verona Park and in all the parks throughout the county. The upgrades make us all proud,” said Verona Councilman Frank Sapienza, who attend the press event with Verona Town Manager Joseph Martin.
Several organizations utilize the building for meetings, including the Sierra Club and a local senior citizen group. The large room on the southern side of the building remained open during construction and activities in the building were not disrupted.
The improvements were designed by T+ associates from Philadelphia, who were commissioned by Aramark, the vendor who has the food concession at the boathouse. Unity Construction from Sayreville was awarded a publicly bid contract for $433,310 to perform the construction work.
The Essex County Department of Public Works reviewed the architectural design and monitored the project to ensure delays were avoided. The project was funded through the Essex County Capital Budget.
“We are tremendously happy that this building was renovated. It will make visits to the park much more enjoyable for the public,” Verona Park Conservancy President James McGregor said. “We appreciate the attention the County has given to make Verona Park such a beautiful place and the way they have stood behind us through the years."
Revitalizing Essex County Verona Park
The restroom facilities in the boathouse and in a comfort station in the park were modernized in 2014. A $1 million project to upgrade the pathway lighting and repair the dock at the boathouse was completed in 2012. A five-station fitness course, landscaping upgrades and improvements to the Verona Lake Dam were completed in 2008.
The two projects totaled $1.4 million and were funded with grants from the NJ Green Acres program, Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s infrastructure improvement trust fund. In 2004, a Children’s Garden with an amphitheater was created, the tennis courts were modernized, a restroom building near the playground was constructed and the park entrances were enhanced as part of a $1 million upgrade, also funded with grant dollars.
The Verona Park Lake was dredged and a rubberized safety surface was installed in the Verona Park playground in 2003. The dredging project was started by the previous county administration and was plagued by delays and mismanagement until DiVincenzo restored oversight and held the contractors accountable.
In addition to the dredging, landscaping to prevent erosion was planted along the banks of the lake, a 1.2-mile health walk was restored and benches were replaced. Essex County also spent $230,000 to install a rubberized safety surface and new drainage system at the playground in Verona Park.
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 22 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, three off-leash dog facilities, a castle and the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens.
Verona Park is 54.32 acres, making it the fifth largest in the Essex County Park System. The land was acquired in 1920 by the Essex County Park Commission and the Olmstead Brothers were commissioned to design the park.