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The Township of Montville, a suburban community located in the northwest portion of New Jersey, is a charming, scenic area that its citizens are proud to call home. When planning the construction of a community park facility and playground, community leaders and township citizens wanted their past rural way of life reflected in the park and its structures. The task of designing a 21st Century park and playground that evokes memories of 19th Century America was given to the Landscape Architecture firm Melillo and Bauer Associates, Inc. based in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. "The theme of the park was dictated by the township's Project Playground Committee, the 'Montville Moms,'" said Landscape Architect Lynn Yahia of Melillo and Bauer Associates. "They wanted something that was unique for a playground facility." The 120-acre community park site was formerly a dairy farm and that history inspired the theme for the overall park design as well as that of the 1-1/2 acre playground. Yahia noted that the park sits in an open area, which lent itself to farming, and makes for an ideal play destination for youth of all ages today. Evolving Community The Township of Montville is a community in transition. The farming community of the past has become a suburban hamlet. Over the past few decades, Montville was discovered by residential and commercial property developers. Montville's central location in northern New Jersey with ready access to major transportation routes made the Township a popular location. During the 1970s and 1980s, Montville experienced its greatest growth booms when the population increased by almost 30 percent. The completion of I-287 made Montville an even more attractive location for residential and commercial development. Today, Montville is a suburban community within the New York metropolitan area. Bringing the Past to Life Melillo and Bauer Associates prepared a concept plan that focused on preserving existing vegetation and also took advantage of the sloping topography upon which the playground was to be located. This conceptual design separated use groups, defined by age, and also encouraged access and integration among park users. The play equipment was envisioned as reflecting the agricultural theme established throughout the Community Park. Play structures proposed included a grain silo slide structure, barn-like roof elements over some of the play structures, tractors and farm structures, farm animals, and for toddlers, a rubberized safety surface resembling a Holstein cowhide. A central overlook plaza was created which included a large open-air pavilion, picnic tables and benches giving good visibility throughout the playground for parents and caregivers. The plaza also offers opportunities for gatherings and a playground area that offers adults comfortable seating nearby their children as they play. A three-rail fence with swinging entry gates reinforcing the farm theme defined the perimeter of the play area. The addition of supplemental planting among the existing vegetation and existing rock outcrops defines the individual play area spaces within the playground itself. Tom Bauer, a principal at Melillo and Bauer Associates, said one of the challenges in designing the playground was the topography, which features several grade changes. The area is also adjacent to a wetland, which also posed challenges in the design. "We incorporated the grade changes into the design which actually makes the playground that much nicer," Bauer said. "We also tried to preserve as many trees as possible in the design. This really turned out to be a great spot landscape-wise for the community park and the playground." The entire community park facility includes ball fields, community gardens and a "Mountainview Amphitheater." The playground opened in the fall of 2002 and has become one of the most popular play sites in northern New Jersey. "When you see the playground filled with kids, it makes this a very rewarding project," Bauer said. Bauer noted that the project could not have been completed without the hard work and perseverance of the township residents, including the "Montville Moms," Township Mayor John Rosellini, Township Engineer Tony Barile and Mary Ann Witty, township recreation director. "We had a terrific working relationship with the people of Montville," Bauer said. "The community involvement was immense and they were rewarded with a great facility." A Proud Community Upon completion of the playground project, more than 500 Township residents attended a dedication ceremony for the park and playground, demonstrating the pride and enthusiasm in Montville for their park and playground.

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October 19, 2019, 8:23 am PDT

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