It was a muggy, overcast afternoon on Tuesday, but that didn't stop the swarms of enthusiastic children from running around in bathing suits as local officials and residents celebrated the opening of in Scotch Plains with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Freeholder chairman Alexander Mirabella acted as emcee for the proceedings, introducing the afternoon’s speakers who included Council Member Kevin Glover, Bruce Bechtloff of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and Scotch Plains Mayor Mary DePaola, among others.
“This project has been in the works for quite some time,” Mirabella said, “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here today and gaze upon the finished product.”
Freeholder Daniel Sullivan, who delivered the longest speech of the event, touched on several key reasons why the park is positive for Scotch Plains.
“In saving these 23 acres of farmland from commercial development, not only have we preserved much of the land’s natural state, but we have helped control over-development and lessen pollution in one of Union County’s most treasured areas,” Sullivan said.
The property was purchased for $10 million with combined funding from the Union County Open Space, Recreation, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program.
Scotch Plains resident Phil Melville was one of many local residents who attended the ceremony. Melville, who lives around the corner from the park, was displeased back in 2006 when the farm was made into a petting zoo. Melville spoke out against these efforts during several several town hall meetings held in hopes of demolishing the zoo.
Now, Melville stated that he couldn’t be happier with what has been done to the property and thinks the park is great for the town.
“There aren’t many big parks in Scotch Plains, all the big parks are in Westfield,” Melville said. “[Constructing the park] was a long labor, but I think it was well worth it.”
The children present at the park are already hooked on its unique features like the spray fountains and and the spiderweb jungle gym.
Mia and Olivia's exuberance was contagious as they pausd mid-adventure to share their thoughts on the park.
“It’s really fun,” they told me. “I would go here every day if I could.”
In Mayor DePaola’s speech, she noted that the park represents the power of the town's partnership with Union County. DePaola was eager to share in passionate praise of the beautiful new park, expressing her hopes for the future of the facility.
“What we have here in Ponderosa Farm Park is a tremendous opportunity for recreation and fun for out residents,” DePaola said. “We look forward to many happy years here enjoying the facility.”