BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Recent work to fix what is being termed a the boggy mess at Edgemont Memorial Park has not alleviated drainage problems, according to some frequent park users. Last week, ducks floated in small bodies of water across from the pond and monument the park is known for.
“Clearly, the problem is not solved,” said park regular Peter Zimmermann.
On Tuesday, June 25, during a much-needed dry spell, the contractors were back at Edgemont extending the pipework, according to Katya Wowk, township communications director.
“This should be the final section of pipe for the drainage project,” she said.
Drainage problems have plagued the 15.5-acre park since it underwent a $900,000 upgrade last year by Abraham General Construction LLC of West Orange and Diana Von Hoffmann Landscaping. Upgrades included a new parking area in front of the Edgemont House, decorative benches, decorative lighting, widened paths, two new water fountains and the planting of 30 trees.
Soon after the renovations, park frequenters said two lakes formed in the grassy area and created swampy areas around many of the older trees beyond the newly-widened walking paths. The paths, which now sit higher than the grass, and the grading of the grassy area seem to be the problem. And instead of sloping to allow for runoff, the grassy area once used for various recreational and sports activities is now consistently waterlogged. Last summer, sandpipers began using the park.
Bill Wallach, president of the Friends of Edgemont Park, confirmed the more water retention problems began after the renovations. But he disagreed that there was a problem at the park and blamed the current pools of water on the increase in rain the area is experiencing lately.
“My understanding from the town is that if it ever stops raining, the contractor is coming back to install additional piping to capture any remaining pooling. The remediation work already done has made a tremendous difference and the park is in better shape now than it was before the original project began,” Wallach said.
He claims, during periods of frequent rain during the past 20 years, puddles have always formed in the park and many of the surrounding lawns due to run off coming down the hill, but the recent pools are now smaller compared to those in the past.
“If anything, the [recent] puddles in the park are smaller than they have been. Between the work of the contractors and neighborhood volunteers, the park looks great. It has been full of life this spring when it is not raining,” he said.
Second Ward councilwoman Robin Schlager also acknowledged the drainage issues and said the Department of Community Affairs is addressing the problems.
Wallach told Montclair Local in March that Abraham General was not paid in full, and funds were being held in retainage.
Wowk said the need for additional work done this week may create an additional expense above the $90,000 already allocated, but that cost would be minimal. The town received $23,000 in Green Acres funding for the upgrades.