The Meadowland Park Conservancy was proud to host and help produce last night's SOMA memorial for those we've lost to COVID. After a moving ceremony at The Pond, attendees walked to see the heart installation on Flood's Hill, made up of 41 glowing lights, each one representing a life lost to the pandemic.
It was a glorious day to be in the park today at our National Puppy Day celebration. Over 50 pups showed up to get their photos taken with their human companions in one of our park hearts.
The park was cheerfully populated, respecting social distancing of course, by kids and seniors alike, neighbors, friends, and a large handful of public officials - all gathered to celebrate our local canines.
Jack from Pet Wants SOMA left the shop and his cats to divvy out treats for the pups and St. Hubert's Animal Shelter was on hand to provide take away information on keeping our pets safe and healthy. Jennifer Gregory from the shelter remarked on how nice it was to see a number of St. Hubert's orphans frolicking happily with their new families.
This event's success was the result of hard work by our Steering Committee Members, especially the Leads on this particular event, Jen Steig and Debi Rednik. We are also always grateful for our partnership with the village in coordinating this event and others.
We look forward to reprising our puppy park day next March. In the meantime, stay tuned for news on our April Event!
by Linda Beck, MPC Co-Founder
That lady was Lee Boswell May, who kept us engaged for forty-five minutes with stories: how she and her classmates would finish up their studies while eagerly listening for the fire house alarm signaling that the ice was thick enough and they could head over to ice skate. Lee said that the pond had always been there - she wasn't sure about the origin - but it was a major social spot; a spot where everyone came to connect and just be outside in the sunshine together.
This road will get much use as we transport new trees and plants and improvements across the park in our refurbishment efforts. Boz Way will remind us through those efforts that we are all connected and that good things are ahead.
Here's a great interview with her talking about South Orange and her fascinating life. Treat yourself and get to know her a little.
We love our park!
We know that most of you visit your beautiful park even without a clever gimmick, but just in case you're feeling deterred by the snow and the low temperature, we've added incentive. Grab a loved one (human? canine?), find one of our Park Hearts, and snap a photo. They'll be up until Monday, February 15th.
As always, we rely on your donations to fund small park "celebrations" like this and to help us realize the larger goal of turning our park into something really spectacular.
These were put together and mounted by our MPC Trustees, all volunteers. Here's a peek into their construction, from Linda's notebook, to Neil's garage, to Linda's studio, and then onto the sidewalk to wait for Matt's van for transport.
January 4th, 2021
To the South Orange Planning Board…
On behalf of the Meadowland Park Conservancy, we’re writing to express our concern about the potential redevelopment of the historic home and property, known as the Squier-Redmond home, at 167 N. Ridgewood Road in South Orange. It is our understanding that a developer has purchased the property and plans to subdivide to create two new homes.
On behalf of the community, The Conservancy has a vested interest in the integrity, character, and responsible stewardship of not only the 30 acres of the park, but also the properties and structures that border the park.
We understand that the home on the property, while incredibly historic and dating from the late 1700s, may be beyond repair and a poor investment for any potential buyer. What concerns us is the lack of regulation on what the new buyer can and might do with both the new structures and the property.
The property has some of the few remaining old growth trees in town and their removal would permanently mar the view from Meadowland Park (and N. Ridgewood Road, a gateway to South Orange from the north).
While there might not be any ordinance which prevents the developer from razing the current structure and building two new homes, we hope that the Village and the Planning Board will do everything in its power to ensure that the development keep the historic nature of the area as well as the integrity of the property’s scenic attributes as they relate to the park and its environs.
We appreciate your thoughtful consideration.
During the (kinda) cold evening of December 21, 2020, several of us gathered for the first annual show of lights to celebrate winter solstice. Due to COVID-19, we limited the group to just a few people. However, the event was warmly welcomed to get together and enjoy Meadowland Park with a heavy coat and a beautiful coat of snow. Armed with flashlights and good cheer, we walked to a few different locations. The above video is the playful result of the evening.
What is Winter Solstice, you Ask?!
Winter solstice marks the beginning of the new solar year for Earth. It is the day with the shortest amount of daylight than any other day throughout the year. It is the official start of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. In July, we will have the summer solstice which is by contrast the day with the longest daylight.
For eons, people have recognized winter solstice as an important moment and have marked it with a show of lights. We wanted to have a huge fire or something really incredible, but instead we chose flashlights this year. With friends and family surrounding, we formed a circle and paid tribute to a new year and a new winter. Maybe, if 2021 brings with it less pandemic and more social non-distancing, we will have a much bigger fest.
The temperature dropped to 30F on Wednesday and just after sundown, a COVID-safe grouping of Community Leaders huddled around a fire pit by the South Orange Skate House and raised a glass to toast the inauguration of the Meadowland Park Conservancy, the non-profit founded by Matt Glass, Linda Beck, and Neil Chambers, newly responsible for reenvisioning the 30 familiar acres of open space in the heart of South Orange Village. Despite the appendage-numbing temperature, it was fitting: one of the goals of Conservancy is to encourage the community to engage with the park 365 days a year.
Braving the chilly toast last night in celebration under Saturn, Jupiter, and the moon was a robust crowd, including Village President Sheena Collum and members of the Board of Trustees, the South Orange Fire Department, Departments of Public Works, Health, and Recreation and Cultural Affairs, the Environmental Commission, and the South Orange Public Library. Local lighting designer Cat Starmer added a dramatic touch to the event by uplighting the trees adjacent to the Skate House with fixtures lent by SOPAC.
Founders Glass, Beck, and Chambers offered an idea of what's to come within the park. "Each of the three of us brings something unique to the table," Glass said. "I am a public space and public events guy. Linda is a naturalist. Neil is a designer and horticulturalist. Our goal is the make this park a feature of Essex County and of the region, coming at it from multiple angles. We have a 30 acre palette here. South Orange needs to get this right."
"I'm down here all the time with my kids," said Chambers. "It's a really special place. I'd like to experiment with different engagement installations, outdoor living rooms, floating docks, things to get people looking at nature differently."
Beck gave some insight into the possibilities, "Tonight as we were setting up, I had a moment alone and a belted kingfisher circled the pond, its clicking song the only sound I could hear. Just as the sun was setting, a flock of geese deployed their landing gear and skied into the water. By bolstering the ecosystem - planting native plants to encourage native wildlife and rethinking slopes and surfaces, these little moments will become more plentiful. We have a real opportunity here."
The park has a tradition of creative collaborative engagement with community leaders and organizations. Last year, the SOPL, the SOFD, the SOPD, and the Health Department hosted a fireside storytime by the pond. This spring would have been the tenth anniversary of South Orange River Day, our annual river clean up involving too many local business and resident volunteers to name, but for COVID restrictions. Many residents look forward each year to the historic baseball game on Cameron Field, a collaboration of the South Orange Historic Preservation Commission and the Recreation Department. Floods Hill is traditionally covered with mittened tobogganists of all ages within minutes of snowfall.
Last night's showing, despite the cold, confirms the commitment by our community leaders to finally give this area the focus it has deserved for a long time. The next spotlight will be on the Winter Equinox, December 21st. Keep an eye out for an announcement about that upcoming event!
NOTE: Thanks to the Fox and Falcon, who lent us champagne glasses so that we could keep our waste to a minimum. Our snack bags were packaged in pre-consumer, compostable paper bags.