Although it was more than a week late in its opening, the newly renovated "Tot Lot" on Highwood Avenue officially re-opened last Monday, much to the delight of the many youngsters on hand.
Township Council members Lou Ferullo, Rosemary Lavagnino and James Terlizzi cut the ribbon to open the doors. There was no denying the smiles and the joy of the younger children who were able to enjoy their own park. While the township's other three parks, Louisa, Gregory and Pizzuta, all feature items for children of all ages, the "Tot Lot" is geared for kids ages 2-12, with many safety features.
"It's designed for children of those ages," said Weehawken Recreation Director Chuck Barone. "All of the other parks are for the bigger kids. The little kids need something of their own."
Barone said he was pleased with the renovations, which he had a hand in designing. The park features a rubberized surface throughout, making it safe for toddlers to bounce around and play without getting hurt. There are several rides, like a giant slide. There is a frog that spits water for the children to frolic through during the summer months.
"Since it's the new thing in town, the park has been packed since we opened," Barone said. "All of the playing surfaces feature this rubberized surface. It's like a carpet of rubber. It's really safe."
Neighboring parents were thrilled to see the safety precautions made in the park's renovations.
"The rubberized surface is such a great safety thing," said Patrick Boll, whose 7-year-old daughter, Brigid, frequents the park. "I remember first taking my daughter to that park when she was about 2 or so, and I said that this park would be great if they fixed it up a little. When I heard they were renovating the park, I was very excited."
Boll took so much interest in the park that he went to watch the construction take place.
"I was fascinated with the work, so I really got an earful," Boll said. "It turns out that they used recycled tires, but all the rubber is non-toxic. It's the only substance that they can use in a park that is safe, but that children in wheelchairs could also enjoy. I was so happy to watch it take shape. I can't say enough good things about it. It's a great park and we've been there almost every day since it opened."
The renovations cost $278,000 and came from a special state legislative grant geared toward fixing parks and playgrounds, according to Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.
"We came within budget and only a week late," Turner said. "It's a great park and it has been getting rave reviews. People are thrilled with it. It enhances the neighborhood and there is more equipment in there than ever before. It's a tremendous success."
Turner said that the renovations to the "Tot Lot" complete the cycle of renovations to all the township parks over the last five years. Sometime within the next year, Louisa Park, the first to receive a facelift five years ago, will be fitted with the same rubberized safety surface.
The township's summer recreation program continues in all of the town's parks, including activities for kids ages 2-12 at the "Tot Lot," daily between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.