NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - A new park in Newark built on formerly toxic land has officially opened to the public.
At just four acres, Riverfront Park is a small step for open space but a giant leap for the city of Newark.
"This park means for the first time in more than a century, Newark residents get down to the edge of the river," Adrian Benepe with the Trust for Public Land told WCBS 880's Jim Smith.
The trust helped with fundraising and designing of the new park. A ribbon-cutting was held on Saturday.
Newark Riverfront Park Built Along Superfund Site Opens To Public
"Newark's long and vibrant history began at the Passaic River in 1666. More than 300 years later, we have come back to the river, graced with renewed glory, to return it to our residents and visitors as a park," said Newark Mayor Cory Booker in a statement. "For the 30 years since this river was declared one of the most severely contaminated Superfund sites in the nation, Newark residents have advocated and struggled for environmental justice, open space, and access to a river that belongs to them. Rivers, by their nature, are a connective force. Today, we celebrate not only the connection of Newark to its river, but the connection of countless acts of transformative faith, advocacy and dedication that together made this day possible."
In all, 4,000 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the shores of the Passaic River.
"This was a polluted site. It's been reclaimed. An old brown field has been turned into a green field. The Superfund site is being cleaned up," Benepe told Smith. "You can take these polluted edges, clean them up and make them into recreational assets. And then everything follows: community values, community investments, real estate values."
Former industrial waste is now lush green grass. A bright orange boardwalk at the park is a launch site for kayaks and canoes.
As Smith reported, the new park is a crowning achievement after decades of demands from residents in the Ironbound.
"I think it's awesome, definitely needed it," said one resident.
"I like the green spaces, I like everything about it," another resident said.
The plan is to some day continue these parks along Newark's entire Passaic River waterfront, Smith reported.
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