New Brunswick Parks and Gardens Commission Plans Renovations and Community Engagement for Baker Park

The New Brunswick Parks and Gardens Commission is poised to undertake a renovation of Baker Park, with a focus on community engagement and the introduction of new amenities. The commission is exploring funding opportunities, including a $1.9 million grant, and engaging the public through surveys to inform the project’s direction. Amidst these discussions, the commission is also considering improvements to park security, addressing the problem of junk cars, and planning community events in anticipation of the budget approval.

A primary focus of the recent meeting was on securing financial support for the Baker Park renovations. Susan Mollica reported that the park is eligible for park development funding through Green Acres D and an urban Parks Grant, potentially bringing in $1.9 million for the project. The commission is working against a February deadline to submit grant applications and finalize plans, making this a pressing matter. Proposed enhancements include a new playground, soccer field, dog park, and improved landscaping.

The commission discussed beautifying the entrance at Remsen Avenue by adding columns and an arbor to enhance visibility and appeal. Additionally, a splash pad and an estate fence to replace the current fencing were suggested to create a more welcoming atmosphere. A phased improvement plan is under consideration, with the playground as the first phase and broader improvements as the second.

The commission is actively seeking input from the community to ensure the park meets the needs and desires of local residents. Outreach strategies include online surveys, in-person outreach at strategic locations such as schools and churches, and engagement with homeowners associations. The commission is also considering the use of signage and QR codes to encourage community participation. Special attention is being given to accessibility for seniors and the inclusion of amenities that cater to the senior community.

Safety concerns have prompted discussions about pedestrian security along the path from Nelson Street to Boyd Park on Paul Robeson Boulevard. Denise Zimmer proposed installing jersey barriers along the sidewalk to protect those walking with children or pets. The commission is working to clarify jurisdictional responsibility for this enhancement and may seek assistance from the Department of Public Works.

Salvatore Salsa highlighted the issue of junk cars stacked up to 12 feet high in certain areas, a situation he described as “cruel. ” The commission is committed to addressing this problem and improving the overall aesthetic of the parks. Erin Maguire outlined plans for in-house improvements slated for the spring, including finishing work at Boyd Park, painting, and graffiti removal.

The commission is also planning for the installation of additional bike racks, particularly within the dog park area, and continuing projects such as bench and picnic table installations and ground maintenance. Security enhancements and the general beautification of the parks remain ongoing concerns.

Community events are another important agenda item. The mayor has responded positively to the commission’s proposal for quarterly events, but timing issues with budget approvals have prompted discussions about securing interim funding. The commission is considering a response to the city administration to ensure funding for events like the March seed swap and the May Citywide cleanup. Members debated prioritizing one event over the other if necessary and explored in-kind contributions and donations to support these initiatives.

Lastly, the commission addressed the need for a new secretary and the possibility of employing AI transcription tools to assist with the role. Denise Zimmer offered to provide transcriptions using her professional plan, and the commission will consider using an advanced AI tool to automate meeting minutes.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

James M. Cahill
Parks and Gardens Commission Officials:
Judith Durica, Joshua Best, Denise Zimmer, Clara Haynes, Charles Bergman (Chair), Nancy Brannegan (Secretary), Erin Maguire (Vice Chair), Salvatore Salsa, Susan Mollica

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