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2022 Smart Growth Award Goes to Bloomfield Township for their Lion Gate Park, Urban Wetland Floodplain Creation Project

By rlsmetro on
Bloomfield

By: Jackie Amorine 

The Township of Bloomfield has been selected as a winner of the 2022 Smart Growth Award for their Lion Gate Park and Urban Wetland Floodplain Creation Project, township officials reported to RLS Media Saturday. 

Officials said the accolades were presented by the nonprofit environmental organization New Jersey Future; the award honors groundbreaking redevelopment projects that contribute to making New Jersey communities sustainable, equitable, and robust. 

“I am so proud to announce this award as it is an acknowledgment of all of the hard work we’ve done remediating this location and making it a safe green space for our residents,” said Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia.

“Our ability to open this park is a testament to the hard work and advocacy of so many people in our community. For years, we have fought to acquire this land, mitigate flood risk in the area, and deliver a state-of-the-art park for our residents, and that work has paid off spectacularly. Thank you to New Jersey Future for this award and all of the people who endeavored behind the scenes to make our vision into reality.”

According to Bloomfield Township officials, the property upon which Lion Gate Park resides was once the site of an old dye factory and former thermometer manufacturer that was later abandoned.

The contaminated site lay dormant and was an eyesore for several decades until a team of environmental advocates, local leaders, and architects worked to implement the Lion Gate Park and Urban Wetland Floodplain Creation project.

Officials said the team consisted of members from Bloomfield Township, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, the Bloomfield Third River Association, Strauss and Associates / Planners, CME Associates, Princeton Hydro, PPD Design, Enviroscapes, and GK+A Architects. 

The new 18-acre park includes recreational facilities, a freshwater wetlands complex, and a fieldhouse. It serves as a safe space for recreation, in which a turf soccer field has become a destination for Bloomfield’s booming soccer program and residents alike. 

At the same time, located on the Third River, Bloomfield officials said an urban flood-prone tributary to the Passaic River, Lion Gate Park incorporates over four acres of freshwater wetland that reestablishes the original floodplain to hold up to 10 million gallons of flood surge during storms.

The land’s capacity for absorption helps prevent some of the flooding which often occurs as the result of storms, and the cleanup of the area has contributed to cleaner water entering the adjacent Passaic River. 

Additionally, because the Passaic River is a superfund-designated waterway, the interventions made at Lion Gate Park have helped to reduce the toxicity of the river, serving as a model for other New Jersey townships with tributaries to toxic rivers that has the potential to serve dozens if not hundreds of New Jersey municipalities facing similar challenges. 

“The dual roles of Lion Gate Park as both a source of resilience and recreation demonstrate a model of land use and planning that values the accessibility of public spaces while acknowledging and addressing the urgent need to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change in New Jersey.” -New Jersey Future.

Founded in 1987, New Jersey Future is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes sensible and equitable growth, redevelopment, and infrastructure investments to foster healthy, strong, resilient communities; protect natural lands and waterways; increase transportation choices beyond cars; provide access to safe, affordable, and aging-friendly neighborhoods; and fuel a strong economy for everyone.

New Jersey Future does this through research, policy development, coalition-building, advocacy, and hands-on strategic assistance. 

The Township was presented with the award on November 10 at a virtual showcase, which also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Smart Growth Awards.