TSG to Construct Children’s Cherry Blossom Playground
June 18, 2015
At a press conference held on Friday, June 12, 2015, the County of Essex announced an upcoming project to construct a Children’s Cherry Blossom Playground at Newark’s Branch Brook Park. The Shauger Group (TSG), the lowest responsible responsive bidder on the project, will perform the construction of the playground, which is scheduled to be completed within 120 days of the June 11, 2015, Notice to Proceed. TSG was officially awarded the project on Wednesday, June 10, 2015, after the Essex County Board of Chosen Freeholders gave its approval.
“As I always say when we win successful bids, we as an Essex County contractor thank you so much for putting Essex County people to work,” said Donald Shauger, Executive Vice President of TSG.
The Freeholder Board voted unanimously in favor of constructing the playground.
“We’re putting our children first,” said Freeholder President, Britnee Timberlake. “It was a no-brainer. It’s a perfect location here in this park because it’s the first playground here in this section of the park.”
“This is definitely a project, Mr. Shauger, that’s going to have to be on time and on budget,” said Timberlake. “We know we can count on you to do that.”
The playground is designed by Edison-based engineers, Pennoni Associates, and will have a cherry blossom theme to keep it consistent with the overall theme of Branch Brook Park. Branch Brook Park, listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places, currently boasts the largest collection of cherry blossom trees in the entire country—even bigger (and more diverse) than the famed Washington, D.C. cherry blossom collection. Branch Brook Park, the nation’s first county park, is home to an annual Cherry Blossom Festival and other family-oriented events, such as blossom-themed bike races and runs, during the year. TSG previously planted Japanese cherry blossom trees in the park in 2008, as well as refurbished the park’s Cherry Blossom Welcome Center in 2007.
The Children’s Cherry Blossom Playground will have two separate play sets, one geared towards children between the ages of two and five, and the other for children ages five to twelve. The playground will be surrounded by benches, which will give parents the opportunity to socialize while their children play. To maximize safety, the playground will also be enclosed by a fence, as well as will have a 10-foot fall height for the surface material.
There will be lion and cub playground pieces, in order to represent the Essex County logo within the park itself. Nature-themed equipment will include a tree house, nature discovery table, clover leaf climber, vine climber, conifer climber, and a river rock climber, the latter of which uses rock formations and rock-shaped handles for ascent/descent and has an additional play activity for children to learn about animals in river rock habitat. The playground will also have ADA-compliant pieces to ensure access to young parkgoers who have special needs.
“We all have fond memories of coming to a local park in our community or neighborhood, swinging on the swings, coming down the sliding board…Those are some of the best memories that we carry with us from our childhood,” said Assembly Speaker Emeritus Sheila Oliver. “This construction represents creating those kinds of memories for future generations of children in Essex County.”
Barbara Bell Coleman, Co-President of the Branch Brook Park Alliance, also added that the playground is a safe space that, in combination with the adjacent Children’s Garden, which was added in 2014, will encourage creativity in children.
“There have been numerous studies that have shown—even in an article in the New York Times last week—that what’s critically important for the health, emotional well-being, and academic performance of children is to have outdoor play time and, in particular, to be surrounded by nature,” said Bell Coleman.
The playground will also be an asset to Park Elementary School, which presently only has preschool equipment on-site. Children in grades K-8 will have the opportunity to use both the new playground and the nearby garden for play and for physical education. The playground also will be within walking distance of new multi-family homes that are currently being built.
The playground will be funded by the Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund, which was established in 1998. Any projects related to open space proposed by the Essex County Executive, Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr., ultimately come before the Fund’s Advisory Board.
TSG will begin work by clearing the site, performing necessary earth work, including excavating and grading, and soil erosion/sediment control. The scope of work will include asphalt paving, as well as the installation of the ornamental fence, swing gates, rubberized safety surface material, trash receptacles, drinking fountains, and site furnishings.
TSG is proud to work on yet another project that betters Essex County, its residents, and, in particular, its children. With many members of its company residing in Essex County, TSG is always honored to employ local workers on local projects. Thanks to this playground, young children will be encouraged to engage in healthy play, have an outlet for their energy, and bond with other children.
TSG has performed work at Branch Brook Park for over a decade. In 2007 TSG reconstructed the Park’s historic Octagon Shelter. The new shelter was designed and constructed in the likeness of the former shelter, which was torn down in 2005. Slight modifications made during its 2007 reconstruction included a minor increase in the structure’s size to 1,100 square feet and the addition of a wheelchair-accessible entrance. The reconstructed shelter has a brick floor, a timber cathedral-style ceiling, and a brick patio surrounding the shelter.
In October 2007 TSG completed its renovation of the baseball and softball field complex in the Branch Brook Park Extension. Prior to the renovation, space limitations in the complex were causing safety concerns, as adjacent fields had overlapping outfields. TSG removed one of the existing baseball fields and realigned the three remaining fields to eliminate any potentially-hazardous overlaps. TSG also installed an irrigation system, new fencing, pedestrian lighting, park benches, and trash receptacles, as well as planted extra trees around the perimeter of the complex. Pathways around the fields were repaved; TSG also pruned trees and repaired water fountains as required.
In March 2008, approximately three weeks before the 32nd Annual Cherry Blossom Festival at Branch Brook Park, TSG finalized its restoration of the Park’s Welcome Center, which also serves as a cherry blossom museum. The Center, with a 22-foot vaulted ceiling and glass paned skylights, is covered with cherry blossom murals and contains a life-size replica cherry blossom tree. With the 2008 restoration, new heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, windows, doors, and floors were installed. TSG also did roof reparations as well.
TSG completed Phase 3 and Phase 5 of the Branch Brook Park Cherry Tree Restoration in 2008. Phase 3 consisted of sitework and clearing, irrigation work, and the installation of pathway and roadway lighting, park benches, trash receptacles, and some plantings. For Phase 5, TSG cleared trees and brush, pruned existing trees, performed pathway and entrance improvements, and planted 1,000 cherry blossom trees in the expansive 360-acre park, with the goal that thousands more would ultimately be added to further beautify this picturesque and scenic location.
In 2012 TSG revamped the field house and surrounding grounds at the Park’s Althea Gibson Tennis Complex. The field house project, which took five months to complete, required the addition of new bathroom facilities, windows, doors, and skylights. TSG performed both interior and exterior painting of the field house, and upgraded pathways around the complex. TSG installed six new park benches with cobble stone pads and performed miscellaneous landscaping services, including planting trees, shrubs, and ground covers; installing topsoil; fertilizing; seeding; and pruning trees.