Over the last two weeks I've had a chance to explore the two big parks here in JC. One is Lincoln Park and it is only two blocks from my house. The other is Liberty State Park, about two or three miles away. They both have their beauty and charm, but are distinct in what they have to offer to the city and their local communities.
Lincoln Park is run by Hudson County and is the older of the two parks, dating to 1905 when it was originally called West Side Park. The prominent figure in the park is the statue of Lincoln at the entrance on Kennedy Blvd. It was built in 1929 by the Lincoln Association (the first group honoring Lincoln to be established in the country, shortly after his death) and the park was thereafter re-named. Lincoln Park is quite large for a city park, has sports fields for soccer, baseball, track, football and tennis. There is a large pond, a little league club and a western extension of the park across route 440 where a recent renovation has lead to a space called "green acres," a nature area with a small pond, willow trees and ample space to have a picnic and explore nature at the level of butterflies and blades of grass.
On my walk from the nature area back to the main park, I saw several teens playing in a tree next to the pond. They were bouncing up and down on an extended branch. A woman walked past me and said "I'm gonna laugh if that breaks." I smiled at her, but thought, okay, I might laugh too, or I might be upset that they broke the branch, but at the moment, it just makes me happy to see them laughing and playing outside rather than cooped up in their apartments sitting in front of computers and tv screens. Kids should be outside. It's good they have this place where they can go.
Liberty State Park is newer to me as I only truly discovered it this past week. Lincoln Park was always too close to ignore, but Liberty State Park was just a little too far away. Now that I have a car (did I mention that?) it is much more accessible (especially considering that my bike is unrideable). As the name suggests, this is a state run park. The park is considerably larger than Lincoln Park weighing in at around 1200 acres. It is massive, and huge swathes of it are currently not in use but are under going "restoration" which suggests only that improvement of some sort is underway. The land mass that now constitutes Liberty State Park used to be a massive passenger and cargo rail depot, the largest in the New York Harbor. In part it was the Central Railroad of NJ (CRRNJ) but it also received coal and other industrial cargo from other parts of the country. Prior to the railroad it was the terminus of the Morris Canal. Photos suggest that huge areas of what is now the park were purely industrial without a tree in sight. Looking at it today is a dramatic difference.