It has been 26 years since its abandonment, 15 years of negative sensational internet posts and 2 years of formal planning, but now the park is finally beginning to shape up.
A lot of hard work has been going into the project all led by volunteers, donations and elbow grease. Back in April we saw nearly 50 people walking around the park with garbage bags, gloves and lots of trash. The “Great Clean-Up of Great Oak Park” took place on Earth Day. This was the first real organized event to occur on the property since the glory days of Pleasureland. A day of cleanup helped set the stage for the rest of the progress that continued over the next several months.
On an early summer-like Saturday morning in June, another 30 people began the process of fixing the C-1 stream “Little Pond Brook”. The stream was clogged with debris, blocked by fallen trees and branches and had a 30-foot section of its north side bank destroyed by years of neglect. The group of volunteers got wet and dirty but in the end restored the stream to its 1970’s glory. These were one of the most important steps both ecologically as well as strategically in bringing the park back to life.
As the summer moved on other volunteers and landscape companies cleared the walking trails as well as removed dead trees, downed trees and dangling branches. The covered-over blacktop was exposed and identified for either future use or future removal. Meetings took place with emergency services to identify the needs in keeping the land safe for future park goers; and a new sign was raised above Ramapo Valley Road to let everyone know that the park is ready for business. The property looks nothing like it did in 2013, and resembles nothing that those previously mentioned internet trolls have posted about the 40 acres of land.
While the fall moves on to winter a couple more projects will either commence or be completed, including the cleaning up of the Doty Rd park entrance with a new sign, another cleanup day, major fundraising efforts and the start of preserving the great oak tree. Over the off-season we hope to engage the NJDEP so the committee can identify what “phase II” projects may be permitted. Right now the Park Committee’s biggest obstacle is requesting DEP approval for parking on the property. Over 200 parking spots have been identified in two parking lots, but without the DEP’s positive response, these spots remain empty.
The numbers of volunteers who have rolled up their sleeves and have helped with the transformation have been astounding. I have always said Oakland’s greatest resource is its volunteers; if anyone doubts it just walk the park and see all the volunteer work that has been completed. We look for more progress as the calendar turns to 2015 and beyond.
Oakland Park Committee