Today, the Morris County Board of County Commissioners joined Mendham Township officials, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and a crowd of residents active in preservation to open the Historic Park at Pitney Farms off Cold Hill Road in the township.
“This is really an environmental miracle,” former Mayor Diana Orban Brown said, noting the park was planted with more than 100 native tree species, native grasses and built with materials that will absorb rainwater, including the special macadam parking lot.
Mendham Township spearheaded the project with the assistance of two key grants, including $377,500 in state Green Acres funding recommended in 2019 to build the park and $264,753 in Morris County Trail Grant funding provided by the County Commissioners in 2019.
The park was opened with a ribbon-cutting that included State Sen. Anthony Bucco, Mayor Sarah Neibart, Morris County Commissioner Director Stephen H. Shaw, Commissioner John Krickus, Deputy Mayor Nick Monaghan, Assemblywoman Aura Dunn, township Committee Member Amalia Duarte, township Historic Preservation Committee Chair Vanessa Brown and Kelly Christopher from the DEP Green Acres Program.
Also attending were parks and recreations officials, public works employees, and volunteers who were crucial over the years to preserve Pitney Farm and the parkland.
“I think it’s the first handicap-accessible trail we have constructed in Morris County,” Shaw said, referring to a half-mile trail accessible to people with disabilities that was included in the project.
“What we found during the pandemic is we needed the trails. Our trail use increased fourfold during the pandemic," Shaw said.
"It was a place where people could get out when they weren’t allowed to really move about that much and to get some fresh air. It was such a needed respite from what was going on during the depths of the pandemic. So that’s how important these types of projects are."
The park is located on the former estate of the Pitney Family, who settled the site in the early 1700s. The township initially purchased 12 acres at the location, which included the three-story family home.
However, attempts to preserve the home ended with an arson fire in 2016, which destroyed the structure and prompted the township to sell off about five acres on which it stood.
Signage with historical information is now on-site, along with grassy areas for passive recreation, picnicking and general outdoor enjoyment. Additionally, a historic garden surrounded by a brick enclosure has been restored.
Senator Bucco noted the garden as he marveled that the entire project was completed in a few short months after an April 26 groundbreaking.
“It seems like we were just here with shovels, and in a short period of time, you see what the collaboration of the state, county and local government can produce. It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Bucco said.
“It’s representative of government at its finest, producing services for the public good,” Deputy Mayor Monaghan said, hailing the cooperation of local, county and state agencies in bringing the project to fruition.