In July 2003, Rennae Pelayo looked out the window of her Bulls Ferry condominium in Guttenberg and wondered about a patch of land directly adjacent to the complex.
Pelayo thought that the vacant area could eventually be turned into a municipal park – a novelty in Guttenberg, because the town never had one in its 136-year history.
Pelayo made all the necessary inquiries into seeing if the 1-acre area could actually become a passive park. It was going to take some work, considering that the area spills over into neighboring North Bergen.
“I remember going to that first North Bergen Planning Board meeting,” Pelayo said. “It took a little time for it to get some momentum.”
Three years later, the idea of building a waterfront park on the Guttenberg and North Bergen border is more than just a dream. It’s becoming a reality, thanks to a deal that was worked out with developer K. Kovnanian and the two towns involved, as well as substantial funding from the state Green Acres program.
Cleaning the area
Two weekends ago, a group of about 20 residents began the process by clearing and cleaning the proposed park area, removing everything that could prohibit the developers from completing the park rapidly.
“Our goal today was to actually envision a park and I think you can see that,” said Pelayo at the park site, busy with her husband and three children clearing debris. “You can actually see some progress. It’s a glorious day, so this was a good sign. It’s the kind of day where you want to be outside enjoying a park.”
With the assistance of the Guttenberg Department of Public Works, the residents were able to take down weeds and shrubs. They also cleared out garbage that was dumped on the site – and the things they found were remarkable.
“We found a couch,” said volunteer Lance Goulbourne. “We found Christmas trees with the lights still on them. There’s no question that this became a dumping ground.”
“I think this park will mean a lot to a lot of people,” said volunteer Diane Murray. “We’re preserving a little piece of land that thousands of people will be able to enjoy for many years.”
Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna was also on hand to help the cleaning efforts.
“Right from the start, there was a group of people who wanted to see that land become a park, and they were going to do whatever they could to make it happen,” Delle Donna said. “They were all out there with their kids in carriages, working very hard. I think it’s great for the town and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
No definite opening date has been set but Pelayo already has plans.
“We’d love to see a gazebo down by the water so you can have summer concerts,” Pelayo said. “You can bus the senior citizens down to the water for the concerts. We have big dreams for this park.”
Pelayo credited Delle Donna’s support.
“Without him, we couldn’t have gone anywhere,” Pelayo. “He came down today to show his support. We knew we needed funding to see it happen and he worked to get the money.”