Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cherry Blossom Time in New Jersey

The Essex County Park System, located in Northern New Jersey, was founded in 1895 and is the first county park system created in the United States. Most of its sweeping landscapes were designed by the landscape architecture firm of Frederick Law Olmsted--the most famous parks designer of his time.

Essex County Branch Brook Park was conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1867, designed by the Olmsted Brothers firm between 1898 and 1938, and saw its first cherry tree planted in 1927 thanks to a generous gift from Caroline Bamberger Fuld.

The Park is part of the Essex County Park System—the first established county park system in the United States—and is listed on both the National and New Jersey State Registers of Historic Places.

However, a distinguishing characteristic of the Essex County Park System is its springtime blooms. Three magnificent gardens blossom annually in three different parks. Visit Branch Brook Park in April to see our historic collection of cherry trees in bloom. Visit the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in May to see more than 8,000 irises bloom. And visit Brookdale Park in June to see roses bloom.

After learning that many of the original trees were decaying due to old age, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. initiated a multi-phase program three years ago to plant 4,000 new cherry trees throughout the Park by 2010. These plantings have helped to strengthen and add to a striking cherry tree collection that is recognized as having the greatest variety in the world.

Since 1979, the System has been maintained by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. It currently consists of more than 25 parks and reservations spanning 6,000 plus acres and includes major facilities such as the Turtle Back Zoo, the Richard J. Codey Arena at South Mountain, the Roseland Environmental Center and Kip's Castle Park.

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