Happy birthday, Washington Park

Collaboration produces a gala celebration of park’s centennial

If you travel between Jersey City and Union City, your route will inevitably take you through Washington Park, 21 acres of green space and sports fields located on the border of both towns. What you may not know is that this county park is 100 years old.
This coming Saturday, a celebration is planned to mark the park’s first century.
The event from 12 noon – 5 p.m. includes live music, art exhibits, and educational demonstrations focused on sustainable living. One of the highlights will be the “Great American Stitch-Out,” a finger-stitching workshop being given by the Jersey City Museum. Chess workshops and face painting demos for the kids will also be offered.
Taking part in the celebration is Nick Caballero, secretary of the Washington Park Association.
Caballero, who moved with his partner in 1999 to their current home a few blocks from the park, said the celebration is also an opportunity for the community to acknowledge the work they have done since the association’s creation in 2007.


“We hope that in 100 years someone will come along and say what a great job we did.” Nick Caballero

“Three years ago, [the association] formed because there were security issues in this park that needed to be addressed,” Caballero said. “Now you see less people drinking in the park or hanging out at late hours, as well as more people enjoying the park for many purposes.”
Those changes are just some of the many the park is undergoing as it moves into the next 100 years. An announcement will be made at 2 p.m. the day of the event on future initiatives to improve the park, including plantings near the park’s gazebo area in the Jersey City section and a community garden in the park’s Union City section. The park itself is split into four areas with three located in Union City while one, the largest part, is located in Jersey City.
“We hope that in 100 years someone will come along and say what a great job we did,” Caballero said. “As long as it’s good for the people, I will be happy.”

100 years and counting

Starting in January 1909, representatives of various Hudson County civic groups met for a year to talk about turning the spacious Suckley Estate spanning the Jersey City-West Hoboken (now Union City) border into a county park.
By 1917, the park was officially established as the result of an agreement made between the Hudson County Commissioners and what was known as the Suckley Park Association.
Caballero said the 100th year anniversary celebration was being done this year as opposed to last year because the park’s current association couldn’t raise funds to organize an event.
“We plan to have 100-year celebrations the next seven years until we hit the actual anniversary,” Caballero said with a laugh.
Caballero also said there will be a discussion, as part of the anniversary celebration, about the history of the park and some of its features that no longer exist. One of them is a gigantic swimming pool located where the park’s gazebos now stand. Also during the event, a videographer will capture seniors giving their recollections about the park.
“I’ve had seniors tell me wonderful stories about coming to the park, especially the pool when you only had to pay a nickel to get in,” Caballero said.
As for the future, “collaboration” is what has made the park thrive at the present day, the same as when it was founded, according to Caballero.
Caballero said if it wasn’t for the collaboration between the Jersey City Police Department, the Union City Police Department and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office in patrolling the park starting about three years ago due to the prompting of residents, the park would not be safe enough to attract more visitors. He also pointed out that collaboration of the residents as well as many different local agencies helped make the anniversary celebration possible.
The event is sponsored by the Jersey City and Union City Mayor’s Office, the Hudson County Executive and other offices. The rain date is Sept. 25.
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at rkaulessar@hudsonreporter.com.


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