The recent days of unseasonably mild weather have been good for construction at parks in Secaucus that are receiving major upgrades, including Buchmuller Park, which houses the Little League Field, and Smit Memorial park. If warm weather continues, it brings the town closer to unveiling a number of new specially-themed playgrounds throughout town in time for spring.
Last week the Reporter toured some of the parks with Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, who met with construction site workers to check on progress. The Little League Field is being converted from a grass to synthetic turf surface, which is of upmost important to a number of tiny baseball players who hope to step out onto the field April 1. But the job supervisor on site could not make any promises that all of the changes would be completed by that date.
New dinosaur-themed features
Construction crews were at work last week resurfacing Smit Memorial Park, which is located off of Gail Place. The park sits in a snug residential corner next to the marshy, muddy wetland that houses a radio tower, along Radio Avenue. The park had a number of new dinosaur-themed playground features installed, including a playground for ages 5 to 12, a small Tyrannosaurus Rex slide, and a cave with fossils imprinted along the side and dinosaur eggs on top.
“There are more dinosaurs coming in.” – Michael Gonnelli
“I think that kids are important [and] keeping kids safe,” said Gonnelli in regard to why the park upgrades are seen as a priority for his administration. He said that that town had a number of liability issues with the parks because they did not meet safety standards and that there were many “imminent hazards.”
“This is like a safe haven for kids,” said Gonnelli about the upgraded Smit Park.
As part of the safety measures, the town is installing an eight foot wrought iron black fence that will be locked at night by the Parks Patrol Officer. The park originally had basketball courts, which were taken down to make room for the new playground. While teens in the area no longer have Smit Park as an option to play ball, toddlers can hone their motor skills at a tiny basketball court that won’t be more than six feet high.
The park will also have a spongy, springy surface, another upgrade that has been mirrored throughout the town’s parks.
Gonnelli also said the old parks were “boring.” To update the “boring” look of the older playground structures in local parks, each redesign includes a special theme such as a tree at Mill Creek Point, a farm at Buchmuller, a pirate ship that will soon manifest at Trolley Park, and the dinosaur theme at Smit.
“There are more dinosaurs coming in,” said Gonnelli.
In addition to the new playground, Smit will also get a brontosaurus statue that shoots water. Water features have become popular additions to new playgrounds throughout the town and county.
Gonnelli also hopes to put in a dinosaur mural along one stone cement wall painted by a local artist similar to a mural that was painted at Buchmuller Park. He anticipates that all of the parks will be ready by the spring and open before Memorial Day weekend.
April 1 deadline
The Little League field has a tight timeline with the goal of completion April 1 – the first day of Little League. Last week Gonnelli met with Job Supervisor Tom Resciniti at the field. Resciniti rambled off a checklist of items of what had been completed thus far, including the installation of drainage, the collector pipe, and manholes. The crew had run into some challenges with the seating, which required a redesign and also faced issues with the shade structure.
“I’m hoping, not promising,” said Resciniti regarding the April 1 deadline to have the field ready.
Massive rocks that had been dug up during construction sat on the expanse of dirt and mud that spanned the field. Resciniti referred to the rocks as Lincoln Tunnel rocks. They were likely taken from the construction of the Tunnel’s third tube in the 1960s and used to fill in the marsh in Secaucus. During that time the area was a mix between dump and marshland, before former Mayor James Moore along with local officials moved to convert the property into a park. Albert Buchmuller, who the park is named after, gave $217,000 toward its construction. Then, 40 years later, former Mayor Dennis Elwell used an estimated $500,000 in capital funds to install a field house, an outdoor bandstand, and other park upgrades.
For the most recent Buchmuller upgrades including the Little League field changes, the town is using a county open space grant that totals approximately $1.6 million.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.