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Riverfront Park Honored by Environmental Protection Agency, Newark’s first park with public access to the Passaic River shows smart growth for the city.

BY lyanne

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today awarded the City of Newark, New Jersey the agency’s “Smart Growth Achievement” award for development of Newark’s Riverfront Park on a former industrial site along the city’s Passaic River waterfront. The park was developed in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and New Jersey’s Essex County Parks Department.

The award recognizes projects from around the country for creative, sustainable initiatives that better protect public health and the environment while strengthening local economies. Winners have demonstrated exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality and enhance quality of life. 2015 is the 13th year EPA has offered the award. No awards were given in 2014. 2013 award winners included Atlanta, Georgia, Dubuque, Iowa and Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois.

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“We are honored that the The City of Newark has been recognized for our commitment to sustainability with the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement by the Environmental Protection Agency, said Mayor Ras J. Baraka. “Through our innovative partnerships and collaborations with leading community stakeholders, we have been able to ensure that our citizens and nature co-exist in environmental productive harmony. To be recognized with so many esteemed previous Smart Growth Achievement Award recipients is a testament to the capacity of public-private partnerships towards global environmental goals.”

“The City of Newark is committed to developing a sustainable city,” said Newark Deputy Mayor Baye Adofo-Wilson.” Newark’s Riverfront Park shows that a public and private partnership can work together to build healthy economies, strong neighborhoods and open space for our community. We are in the process of a significant expansion of Riverfront Park. In fact, the Newark Municipal Council recently authorized a referendum to increase the park by 15 acres, which will include walkways, performance space and a boathouse.”

Comprised of more than 16 acres of recently developed public park space, much of it on previously contaminated industrial land, the riverfront park system now includes playing fields and courts for soccer, football, tennis and basketball. There is also a bikeway and walking trail, a riverfront boardwalk, a floating dock and playgrounds, along with signs detailing the history of the area. After four years of planning, community input, environmental clean-up and fundraising, phase I of the park opened in 2012. Phase II is expected to begin in 2016.

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“As part of our commitment to help communities grow in ways that protect the environment and support local goals, EPA is pleased to recognize the winners of this year’s National Award for Smart Growth Achievement,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The smart growth strategies behind this year’s award winners are making a visible difference in their communities, and they provide models that can guide and inspire many others.”

Developed in two phases, the now-complete sections of the park cost approximately $25 million in total to develop. Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including the City of Newark, Essex County and the State of New Jersey. The Trust for Public Land also raised more than $3 million in private support from a variety of partners, including Prudential Financial, Inc., the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Victoria Foundation, and other donors committed to Newark.

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