Walk or bike through Nutley parks and learn a bit of history, too
By Anthony Buccino
The author's Walk & Talk touched on many points of interest in three Nutley Parks.
Here we add some points not covered in the brief walking tour along the Third River
From Nutley's town web site, you'll get no
The parks in Nutley are considered the "crown jewel" of the Essex County park systems.
The Third River which runs from south to north virtually divides the town into east and west. Don't worry, there won't be a pop-quiz at the end.
But you'll want to know that you could start in Booth Park, Harrison Street to Centre Street at Ravine Drive, in the southern area of Nutley, roughly where the river and our park system meet, and follow the course of the Third River - or what the Leni Lenape called the Yountakah River - to the town's northern border at Clifton near the Kingsland Manor.
Crossing under the Centre Street bridge, as we did when we were walking to the Oval for the annual Nutley-Belleville football game, or, now that we're older and less inclined to step on stones under the bridge, crossing the street above the river brings us to Yanticaw Park.
Yanticaw Park, from Centre Street to Chestnut Street, is actually a county park within the township. Land for Yanticaw Park was acquired between 1911 and 1914. At 28.75 acres, it is the 11th largest park in the Essex County Park system.
In 2003, as reported in The Jersey Tomato Press, the playground near Centre Street was upgraded. In 2006, the playground was named the “Essex County Frank A. Cocchiola Playground” in honor of the late Frank Cocchiola, who served on the Nutley Board of Commissioners for 28 years. Update and revitalization of the play area is planned for 2017.
In July 2016, a Unique 'Outdoor Classroom' was announced for the park. The collaborative effort between the Nutley Educational Foundation, Essex County and the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission resulted in an amphitheater at riverside.
The river basin and the parks serve as a flood plain. The seating virtually lies in the downhill flow of rain water. Following heavy rains and during river flooding, classes are canceled.
Up the hill, to the east of the playground and amphitheater is the Essex County Carmen A. Orechio Recreation Complex between Park Drive and Passaic Avenue. It has sports fields and a bocci court.
West of Yanticaw Park, is the town's hub including town hall, Nutley High School, Nutley Public Library, and two senior housing buildings.
In front of Nutley Town Hall are remembrances to John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Christopher Columbus, Ray Blum, and September 11.
WW2 memorials list all the men from town who served in the war and the Nutley sons who died in the war.
Across the street on Vincent Place is the Nutley Thriving Survivors Memorial Garden, which was created in 2017.
Yanticaw Park is more than 100 years old!
According to Essex County history
In 1895, John R. Clark and Dr. Thomas E. Satterthwaite campaigned ceaselessly for creation of a park here.
In 1908, the Town Commission decided under pressure to send a representative to a hearing in Newark on the subject of creating a County Park Commission.
It was Clark who forced through a plan for a Nutley Park in the first Essex County Park Appropriations bill on May 5, 1909.
A year later Clark appeared before the Town Commission to report that a map had been prepared to preserve the natural beauty of the Third River "Along Yanticaw and Bear Creeks" from Harrison Street to Passaic Avenue.
Chestnut Street to Vreeland Avenue
Nutley's early history developed along the Third River. Before English and Dutch settlers began farming and foresting these lands, the Lenni Lenape held annual feasts along the Yountakah river. It was their sort of Thanksgiving. Upstate tribes and shore tribes traded beads, furs and fish in the first flea markets held along the river.
Across Chestnut Street we enter Memorial Park which follows the river north to Vreeland Avenue.
Entering Memorial Park at Chestnut Street, the 17th Century building to the west is remembered as the Womens Club building for most of the last century. It is also known as the Vreeland Homestead.
Beyond the old homestead is a former mill now serving as the Nutley municipal court, police and fire departments. Across the river, to the east is the memorial dedicated to veterans of all wars.
A 1792 map shows the beginning of a small industry along the river in the area known as the Mud Hole. The pond at one time served as the young settlement's water source.
Grist mills and saw mills operated along the river in the 1800s and the building known as Town Hall was once a mill turning out cloth for uniforms during the War Between the States.
Passing the Home Garden memorial on your right, beyond the hedges and foliage you are walking along the back western border what was the Enclosure Artists’ Colony – Willow Place, The Enclosure, and Calico Lane.
This large house on The Enclosure
In 1873, land developer James Hay purchased a home on Cotton Mill Pond which is now part of The Enclosure Historic District. Hay enticed artists, authors and editors to make the Enclosure neighborhood their home.
According to our town history, among the list of notables who lived in Nutley were painters Frank Fowler, Frederic Dorr Steele, Frederick Dana Marsh and his wife, Alice Randall, Albert Sterner, Arthur Hoeber, Earl Stetson-Crawford, and Ferdinand Lungren; authors Frank Stockton, and Henry C. Bunner.
Today, world-renowned artist Gary Erbe lives in the same house of former prominent artists on the Enclosure.
In the 1870s, Guthrie's General Store opened alongside the Mudhole. It had the first telephone in town and reportedly sold ice cream to Annie Oakley and Mark Twain.
Memorial Parkway was created after WWI to honor more than 200 locals who served at the time. Memorial trees were planted to honor those men who did not return from the war.
A bronze memorial at Chestnut Street entrance Pathway extending length of parkway 427 trees, ‘a tree for each who served’
A copper marker bearing name of each who served Memorial boulder and bronze tablet bearing names of 17 men who died
This boulder to be surrounded by grove of 17 trees
Purchase of strip of land from the Schneider heirs, 1040 feet long by 75 feet wide
The cleaning and deepening of Kingsland Pond, making it suitable for canoeing, swimming and skating.
Four hundred and twenty-seven bronze medals, ‘one for each who served’
Handsomely engraved list, alphabetically arranged, of the names of those who served, to be framed and hung on the wall of the Library.
Their lofty goals were met with low financial support and thus trimmed. But the trees and the spirit remain. The WW1 memorial is actually in Memorial Park Two
The Raymond Blum memorial foot bridge is at the north end of the Mud Hole pond. Private Raymond Blum, son of ex-Mayor Blum, was killed in action on Oct. 22, 1918. The soldier's name appears on three memorials in town.
Nutley offers a Memorial Tree Planting Program in memory of loved ones that have passed. The tree is planted within our park and field system with a memorial plaque inscribed with the phrase of choice. A Memorial Bench program is also available.
Combined, the three Memorial Parks are nearly 14 acres of green space along both sides of the Third River.
The Mud Hole freezes over in winter allowing some ice skating, but our winters aren't as cold as they were when future famous resident Martha Stewart skated here. Even into the 1960s, kids would often skate on the river from Booth Park all the way to Kingsland Pond. Or so I'm told by friends of my own age.
Another thing about the route from Booth Park to Kingsland Pond is the walking/bike track. You could tread from one end to the other and not step on a blade of grass. I'd still keep an eye out for what the geese leave behind.
MEMORIAL PARK II
Vreeland Avenue to Brookfield Avenue
In this section of the park we see the WWI memorial naming the 17 Nutley sons who died in the Great War.
Continuing north, we'll walk under the railroad trestle of much Nutley lore. We don't encourage anyone to walk across that trestle whether or not trains use it anymore. Some students see it as a rite of passage. It is dangerous.
Past the trestle, west of the river is the Erie Place Historic District. According to Then & Now NUTLEY, "Beween 1871 and 1890, James R. Hay buil a cluster of 11 wooden cottages on Erie Place to house United States Express employees who were under exclusive contract with the Erie Railroad.
"The identical homes each contained four rooms and and have been described as Folk Victorian."
Okay, so, 150 years ago most people were shorter than today, but size-wise, the homes seem to be more of a bungalow than a home. Some of the TINY homes remain, and some have had additions.
The Nutley Little Theatre - 'Nutley's best kept secret' - is also located in the Erie Place Historic District.
MEMORIAL PARK III
Brookfield Avenue to Passaic Avenue
In July 1975, Nutley Police Officer John Guerino had just arrived on his shift that day when he answered a call that “some kids were drowning,” according to the AP.
When he entered the river to save a rescue worker, the officer was swept away by the raging Third River waters.
He managed to grab onto the bottom of the Brookfield Avenue bridge and hold on for three hours as rescue workers drilled through 16 inches of concrete to save him.
The boys were rescued and the body of town worker Lucio Bolcato was recovered later.
Lucio Bolcato, 51, died July 15, 1975, of a heart attack during a courageous attempt to rescue a young boy and one of his co-workers who were both drowning in storm-swollen waters of the Third River. Bolcato had worked with the Nutley Dept. of Public Works for 15 years before his death.
The monument in memory of Bolcato in Memorial Park III was dedicated on May 30, 1977. Funds for the monument were raised by the American Legion, Amvets, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Catholic War Veterans, UNICO, Elks, Rotary Club, and Nutley Park Shop-Rite.
Born in Newark, Bolcato was an unselfish human being who touched the hearts of others. He always helped people with no concern for himself.
West of Lucio Bolcato's memorial tree is Yantacaw School on Yantacaw Place. The school and the street are spelled differently from the park (Yanticaw). The school was built the same year that Nutley officially changed its name from Franklin. That's 1902, or 115 years ago.
Passaic Avenue to Kingsland Street
This treasure of a park seems the most deceptive of parks for its 10 acres size. So little of Kingsland Park is visible from the Rutgers Street entrance, but when we start walking along the river, on our right is a field then a ball field and on our left, across a bridge is another huge field and then this incredible white gazebo stands before us!
And we're not even half-way through this park.
The Rotary Club donated the gazebo to the town in 2002 on the 100th anniversary of it becoming Nutley.
Tucked behind the gazebo, a few dozen yards is the United Nations Garden which was created in 1962. The garden marker was donated by Edgar Sergeant, a relative of Jacqueline Kennedy.
About 20 yards beyond the marker, within a semi-circle of hedge is the United Nations mosaic. In 2009, Tyler Huey restored the mosaic as his Eagle Scout project in the Boy Scouts. He accepted plenty of help clearing trash from the river and also identifying the trees that had been planted for the country members in the U.N.
Further along the river we come to Kingsland Lake or Yantacaw Pond depending on whether we're viewing it from Nutley or neighboring Clifton. And speaking of quirky borders, Kingsland Street in Nutley is the continuation of Kingsland Road in Clifton.
Across the pond, dam, and waterfalls is the 17th Century Kingsland Manor.
Essays, photography, military history, more
New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
Permissions & other snail mail:
PO Box 110252 Nutley NJ 07110
Nutley Neighbors, July 2017: Nutley Bike Path by David A. Wilson
Nutley Neighbors, June 2017: Nutley Historical Society’s Ice Cream for History Night to Celebrate Guthrie’s by John Simko
Booth Park - Ravine Ave & Harrison Street
DeMuro Park - Margaret Avenue
Father Glotzbach Park - Park Avenue
Flora Louden Park - 268 Hancox Avenue
Kingsland Park - 258 Rutgers Place
Memorial Park II and III - Vreeland Avenue to Passaic Avenue
Memorial Park I (Mud Hole) - Passaic Avenue and Vreeland Avenue
Msgr. Owens Park - Park Avenue
Nichols Park - 898 Bloomfield Avenue
Reinheimer Park - 40 Bloomfield Avenue
Yanticaw Park - Centre Street and Park Drive
Walk in the Park 4:32
Walk in the Park 4:23
Walk in the Park :57
Womens Club 6:24
Womens Club 1:21
John Simko at the Mud Hole (2012)
Train Crossing Trestle (2010)
Kingsland Park - Drone (2016)
Roche Site - Drone (2015)
Nutley Historical Society
Kingsland Manor Restoration Trust
Nutley Township web site
And links, subject to change