Caldwell’s 41 acre Grover Cleveland Park is located on Brookside Avenue and Runnymede Road, in the towns of Caldwell and Essex Fells. This heavily wooded park in the 7th largest in the Essex County Park system. It was designed by the Olmsted landscape architectural firm, designers of Central Park in NYC and the U.S. Capitol grounds.
Among its amenities are:
- Lighted tennis courts
- Large playground with rubberized safety surface
- Picnic grove
- Baseball field
- Four foot bridges that connect the two areas of the park divided by the Pine Brook Creek; the Creek runs through the park
- Shuffleboard courts
- Horseshoe pits
- Summer concert activities
- Pond for ice skating and fishing
Much of the park’s land was originally settled by the Gould family and later owned by Gen William Gould (1757-1847), a veteran of the Revolution and the War of 1812 who lived in Essex Fells. A sawmill for grinding tanbark to make paper had once been operated at the pond by the Gould family. The property was acquired from Gould’s estate between 1913 and 1916. The park is named for President Grover Cleveland who was born in Caldwell in 1837, and was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.
In 1895, New Jersey Governor George Theodore Werts signed legislation creating the Essex County Park Commission, the first county park system in the United States. The Commission hired the Olmsted Brothers, the landscape architectural firm founded by Fredrick Law Olmsed, the nation’s finest and designers of New York’s Central Park and the U.S. Capitol grounds. Ironically, the stepbrothers John Charles Olmsted (1852–1920) and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (1870–1957), were distant cousins of President Grover Cleveland, the man for who this park was named.
They began their transformation of the park in 1914 and by 1916 the area had been transformed with tennis courts, baseball fields, a playground, a sand court, wading pool and a shelter.
The primary characteristic of Olmsted parks is the attention to detail. Land was cut to excavate ponds and other areas filled to build mounds. Trees, shrubs and other plants were treated as artistic elements so as to transform the park into a work of art. Winding paths and roadways, sunken roads, natural waterways, open fields, scenic overlooks and thickly planted borders that enclosed the park and hid the neighboring traffic were all distinguishing features of the Olmsted style that were incorporated into the Grover Cleveland Park.
In 1979, the Park Commission was replaced by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, which took over the responsibility for park development, maintenance and programs.
The Grover Cleveland Park Conservancy was formed in 2001 to support the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs in its efforts to maintain, restore and enhance the park. The Conservancy serves as an advocate for the park. Members stroll through the park daily keeping the Park System informed of maintenance and safety needs. The Conservancy also raises money to augment the county’s budget in order to enable improvements to be made in a timely fashion.
Grover Cleveland Park is located in Caldwell along Brookside Avenue and in Essex Fells along Runnymede Road.
Use the intersection of “Runnymede Road and Brookside Avenue” when obtaining driving directions from the Internet.
From the south : From the intersection of Eagle Rock Avenue and Roseland Avenue, take Roseland Avenue north approx. 1 mile to Borough Place, turn Left; bear Left onto Runnymede Road; continue to end, turn right onto Brookside Avenue. Park is on right.
From the east or west: From the intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Roseland Avenue, take Roseland Avenue; make immediate Right onto Westville Avenue; after Westville Avenue turns left, stay straight onto Brookside Avenue. Park is on left.