The park is being built in four phases. When entirely completed, it will include an environmental center, playground equipment, picnic tables and a marina.
The first part of the park, which will open this Saturday, is located on the site of the former Tony's Old Mill restaurant. The second part is five additional acres that need to be cleaned up.
"This first opening...is the actual creation of the park on the original Tony's Old Mill site," said Michael Gonnelli, the superintendent of the Secaucus Department of Public Works and a New Jersey Meadowlands Commissioner. Tony's Old Mill was a popular tavern located at the site for many years. It was originally owned by Tony Calderone and later owned by the late Arthur Treacy.
Mayor Dennis Elwell said, "[In] 1998, we made the purchase of the property from the Treacy family, which was approximately 1.4 acres."
The property alongside of it, which is approximately 5 acres, used to consist of a rifle range and will be part of the park after it is environmentally remediated.
Gonnelli said, "We actually purchased [the 5 acres] and closed on it, but we held a million dollars back in escrow until the environmental impacts are remediated. There were some concerns because it was a rifle range with lead, and that whole thing is in the hands of the DEP right now. We're trying to expedite that."
Mayor Elwell said the Tony's Old Mill site is environmentally safe. He said, "We did environmental testing there and it came up clean."
The first phase was the construction of a bulk head, lighting, and a canoe ramp, according to Gonnelli. "Phase two is site furnishings, road improvements, the brick pavers along the water's edge, parking, and landscaping," said Gonnelli. "It's the actual park creation."
The contract deadline was Sept. 17, but rain may have caused some delays.
The contractor for the park construction phase is Marino Construction. It was designed in-house by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission landscape architectural staff, whose project manager is Katy Weidel.
Gonnelli said, "The next phase is going to be started in the spring, and it's going to be the construction of an environmental center, canoe storage area, and a children's meadow which is going to be non-traditional trails and non-traditional type playground equipment. Things that adhere more to the environment, like rock walls. Things that you don't typically see in a playground."
The nautical area
He added, "The final phase will be the nautical site, which is the site that we are waiting for the DEP to approve to do a remediation on. That's going to be a picnic grove with large trees, picnic tables, a pavilion, and barbecue areas where people can picnic along the water. Additionally, there's a 20-slip marina going in. That should also be done in the spring."
The marina is part of an agreement the town entered into with Baker Residential, who is constructing Riverside Court residential housing along Meadowlands Parkway.
Gonnelli said, "Part of their agreement was to construct a river walk and the marina at the Old Mill site."
The river walk should run from the Baker complex to the Old Mill site, which is approximately 1.5 to 2 miles.
"In fact, all the site furnishings to the trail just came in...it's about $40,000 worth of site furnishings, benches and garbage barrels, light poles. We are estimating the marina to cost somewhere around $250,000. That's their obligation."
Baker's total obligation to the town is approximately half a million dollars, according to Gonnelli.
Part of Baker's agreement also includes public access to the development, which should include public parking.
Along the river
Mayor Elwell added that the town is waiting for the Hess corporation's site to be developed, so that the walkway on that property can eventually link to other walkways being built in the area.
Elwell said, "[I] don't think it's ever been opened up because the property hasn't been open. But whatever is done on that property there, is a mandate that the riverfront be kept open to the public. That was a very very key language that it cannot be closed off."
Gonnelli added, "The walkway is already constructed. It's just never been opened because nothing ever happened with the site yet."
The mayor said there is already a walkway in place at the Meadowlands Hospital.
"We've done some other things in and around the hospital where a walk is already in place, so we're really just linking small pieces to the completion of the river walk," said Elwell.
Gonnelli said the river walk will eventually stretch over 5 or 6 miles and connect Laurel Hill Park to the site of the Old Mill.
"It would be the entire western border of Secaucus, the entire habitable western border of Secaucus along the Hackensack River," said Elwell.