Great Oak Park – A Park for the People Being Built by the People

 

Park Sign

 

It’s been four short years since Lee and I met at the old Elm Street Bar to discuss ideas on what to do with Heritage Hills.   That abandoned 40 acre parcel had sat dormant for almost 30 years and now the borough (with the aid of Green Acre funds) purchased the land.  It was a blank slate that although most of it sat in a flood plain, with a C-1 protective stream and endangered wildlife, had potential to allow both people and wildlife to co-exist, preserving the property’s once proud past while being an oasis from the outside world.   It has not been an easy project, but it has brought together the community and given everyone an opportunity to plan, work and enjoy the satisfaction that has come with every small triumph.  Now, four years later, what is to be expected in the next four years?

The previous three years led us to the 2015 park opening likewise, this year will be the “wind up” for the next great happenings.   In 2016 we are not expecting major changes in the park, but progress will continue, leading up to what will be a busy 2017.  What improvements and events are we looking for in 2016?

A boy scout has come forward to add yet another trail in park.  This one will close the loop from the Ramapo River Walk to the White Oak Trail.  This path will take hikers along the C-1 stream with a very scenic view.  We expect this pathway to be completed by late spring, giving people a chance to hike without having to turn around and retrace their tracks.  The Park Committee has proposed to name this new trail Nuckel Pass, after the Nuckel family who once owned Muller’s Park.  It is believed that that the family was the last to live in the old Muller’s home.  In the future we do plan to move the red bridge, located at the other end of the park, to close the split between the two River Walks – but that will be discussed later on.

We are excited that the Rising Phoenix Martial Arts School has offered to complete the clean-up and repair of the old miniature golf course.  This has been a large task but thankfully this group has come forward and offered to complete the job for Oakland.  Once the job is finished, we will determine what is needed to install golf greens on the cement golf holes allowing people to use at their leisure.

Those that have walked over Uncle Bart’s Bridge may have noticed that the trail stops due to over grown brush.  We may have another group willing to clear this brush which happens to sit over an old macadam driveway.  Clearing of this pathway, along with the adjacent pathway that leads left from the Uncle Bart’s Bridge, will complete the opening of all the trails as well as define the borders of the golf course.

Capping the 2016 projects will be the “Great Clean Up of Great Oak Park” scheduled for April 23rd, and elevation of the trail marker signs to relieve the temptation to tear them down.

The big news for 2016 will be the completion and submission of the Letter of Interpretation to be sent to the NJDEP; the ETA is June of this year.  Once the LOI is submitted and review by the NJDEP we will know what and/or which future projects the borough may begin developing.  We expect to get answers by spring 2017.  These projects include the great lawn, band shell, skate-park, dog-park, bike track and redevelopment of the Muller’s parking lot.   At this time we do not have permission to develop any of these projects, some may be allowed while others may be disallowed.  Either way, we need to prepare so we can begin development in 2017.

This Great Oak Park project has been undertaken under a plan to use no tax payer funds.  To date we have estimated somewhere between $300,000 and $350,000 of donated labor, supplies and funds.  To complete the second phase of the park (the DEP approval items) we estimate the need for approximately another $600,000 – $800,000.  The largest costs will be the redevelopment of the parking lot and the great lawn.  Moving that red bridge to the C-1 stream mouth is estimated to cost $25,000; which includes DEP permits, engineering costs as well as footings.  So as you see, we need to start fundraising, and/or find engineers, license & bonded construction companies and raw material companies willing to donate.  It is not far-fetched to think that companies will help us; remember we had 6 tree companies do thousands and thousands of dollars of work for us in 2014. Please consider making a donation to keep this work going. You can go to the SAO page  and make a donation that will go directly to funding work in Great Oak Park. Be sure to scroll down the page until you see “Donate To Great Oak Park”!

The home stretch begins in 2017 when the Great Oak Park project hits the final stages.  Before any work can commence we need to spend 2016 planning, organizing and focusing on funding for the very immediate future.   It is time for us to all start thinking and acting to get this project complete.  Four years ago the naysayers said this park would never re-open, together we proved them wrong.  Let’s continue the work that has successfully achieved something that represents what is Uniquely Oakland!

See everyone on April 23rd at the 2016 Great Clean-Up of Great Oak Park.  Keep an eye on the park’s facebook page for details on how to sign-up.

 

Mike Guadagnino

Chairman Oakland Great Oak Park Committee

Follow Mike on Twitter as he tweets about the park’s development and Oakland Recreation  @MGuad27

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About Debbie

Debbie is a former Oakland resident with a strong background in volunteerism. From the days of Girl Scouts to forming her own non-profit (Metro Denver Cares), Debbie believes that a community is only as strong as the people who invest their time and talents in it.
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