Robert Crook of the Glenfield Park conservancy says he’s been told by PSE&G that broken lights like this in the Glen area of the park can’t be replaced until the county clears overgrowth and downed trees blocking access. (COURTESY ROBERT CROOK)

By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA
bartesaghi@montclairlocal.news

For more than 13 years, members of the Glenfield Park Conservancy say, 12 street lights located in the Glen area of Glenfield Park have been out of service.

It’s an issue the group’s members say is just one of many problems caused by years of neglect at the Essex County-owned park. And they say PSE&G is unable to replace the lights until pathways are cleared of Japanese Knotweed that has taken over more than an acre of the Glen, as well as large fallen trees and other obstructions.

“Why can’t park maintenance be performed?” Robert Crook, president of the conservancy, asked Essex County Commissioners at their meeting on Aug. 4. “Why has this park been so neglected?  We are not asking for special treatment but to be treated fairly, just like any other Essex County Park.”

And county officials say they agree work should be done. “We understand there are issues with the Glen area in Glenfield Park,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. told Montclair Local by email. “We are currently putting together a plan to clean the area.”

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Crook said in various contacts with the county and with township officials, he hasn’t been given a clear answer what specific complications might stand in the way of clearing the overgrowth — one of several projects he’d like to see at the park — or how quickly it might happen. 

The commissioners’ public information officer, Kyalo Mulumba, said Tuesday he didn’t have that information. Anthony Puglisi, the county’s public information director, hadn’t yet returned a message seeking more information by press time. 

Since the conservancy was founded in January, it has sponsored clean-ups in which a truckload of garbage, and even handguns, were cleared out of the Glen, Crook sale.

“The Glen area of the park has been neglected for decades and is not safe as streetlights are inoperable, pathways and stairways into the Glen are dangerous and arched concrete bridges are disintegrating in place,” he said. “Access to NJ Transit train tracks is adjacent to the Glen and children play on the train tracks.”

The evening of last week’s National Night Out event, Crook said, he saw children smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol on the edges of the Park and within the Glen.

“It has been proven that well-lit public spaces help to deter crime,” he said.

Crook said he was told by a PSE&G technician the mercury vapor lights in the Glen can’t be replaced until the area is clear. The EPA barred the sale or import of most types of mercury vapor ballasts in 2008.

He provided Montclair Local with a message from PSE&G regional public affairs manager Joseph McQueen saying once the county has cleared the area, a team could be dispatched to perform the repairs. A message left for PSE&G’s media relations phone line last week has not yet been returned. 

Kim Walker, a member of the conservancy, told the commissioners the area’s parks “have been, especially during the pandemic, a refuge.” And Walker said the conservancy is willing to continue its cleanup events at Glenfield.

But the first step for any improvement to the park, she said, “is really to begin to clear that area so the lights can be repaired and turned on.”

In an email to commissioners read by the county clerk at the meeting, Glenfield Park Conservancy Vice President Mariano Verrico Sr. said the lack of lighting in the park “allows crime to go undeterred.” Another member, Brad Liverman, said in an email the area was open for “any potentially illegal activity to flourish.”

Verrico said more than 200 residents had signed a petition to get the street lights fixed. 

“The park offers one of the best options for all of the residents in the surrounding areas to escape into nature and explore with their families and pets,” Liverman wrote in his email. The overgrowth limits that use, he said. “It is a shame that a portion of the park is not available to be used due to the lack of upkeep as neighbors don’t have large outdoor spaces to enjoy and escape the summer heat.” 

Commissioner President Wayne L. Richardson asked County Administrator Robert D. Jackson to have the issues with Glenfield Park addressed. 

County Commissioner Brendan Gill, a Montclair resident,l said during the meeting that he has “full faith and confidence that this administration will take into advice and get us up to a ‘yes’ because we are not known in this county for letting bureaucratic nonsense get in the way of getting our main objective.”