MEANWHILE IN SOUTH ORANGE... By Adrianna Donat
Making Meadowland Park a world-class open space
Stretching from South Orange Avenue to Clark Street, and from the train tracks to Ridgewood Road, Meadowland Park is the largest and most dynamic open space in South Orange. It offers athletic fields, tennis courts, a pond, and lots of space to enjoy nature right near downtown.
But on close inspection, the park could use some support, with issues such as poor lighting and older landscaping. And a master plan needs to be created – but South Orange does not have a Parks Department to move the park forward.
Enter Linda Beck, Matt Glass, and Neil Chambers, co-founders of the Meadowland Conservancy.
“We want to re-envision Meadowland Park,” says Glass. “We want this to be a park for all seasons, and a park for all people.” The three co-founders established the Meadowland Conservancy in 2020.
The Conservancy concerns itself with how Meadowland Park is used now and how it could be used even better in the future. The founders envision a world class park that draws people from all over, as do Storm King in upstate New York or the High Line in New York City.
And though the Conservancy does not receive funds from the Township of South Orange, its vision is coming to life through collaborations, donations, and grants. Recently, the South Orange Environmental Commission was awarded a $30,000 grant from the New Jersey Urban & Community Forestry Program. As partners, SOEC and the Conservancy will use the grant to plant 15-20 shade trees in Meadowland Park by the end of May.
The Conservancy is planning other projects – including new benches, lighting and wayfinding – and reprising successful programs and activities, such as evening fireside story times and skating on the pond. Some newer ideas include public events to mark milestones on the calendar (for example, the summer and winter solstices), pop-up art installations, and even a borrow-a-sled/leave-a-sled program at Flood’s Hill.
“We would like to facilitate a modern interpretation of the use of park space,” says Chambers.
But Beck is quick to reassure readers that the Meadowland Conservancy will help the park become more useful for people and even nicer to look at, with a bonus of being good for nature too. “We are not taking anything away, just seeing what works and making it even better,” she says. “We want to enhance your experience in Meadowland Park.”
To see more of what the Meadowland Conservancy is doing, check out MeadowlandPark.org.