Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


Lion Gate Park in Bloomfield Offers Opportunities for Resilience and Restoration on the Passaic

Project Name: Lion Gate Park and Urban Wetland Floodplain Creation Project

A former brownfield site that was converted into a park space to provide recreational opportunities and reduce flood risk in Bloomfield

Primary Partner Team: Township of Bloomfield; NY/NJ Baykeeper; Bloomfield Third River Association; Strauss and Associates / Planners; CME Associates; Princeton Hydro; PPD Design; gk+a Architects

“Our ability to open this park is a testament to the hard work and advocacy of so many people in our community. For years, we have fought to acquire this land, reduce flood risk in the area and deliver a state-of-the-art park for our residents, and that work has paid off in a spectacular way,” said Mayor of Bloomfield Township Michael Venezia, describing the Lion Gate Park project in Bloomfield. The 18-acre park includes recreational facilities, a freshwater wetlands complex, and a fieldhouse.

The property of the Lion Gate Park once was the site of an old dye factory and former thermometer manufacturer that was later abandoned. Thermometers were discarded at the site, which left kids playing in a space contaminated with mercury for generations, until a team of environmental advocates, local leaders, and architects worked to implement the Lion Gate Park and Urban Wetland Floodplain Creation project. The team consisted of members from Bloomfield Township, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, the Bloomfield Third River Association, Strauss and Associates / Planners, CME Associates, Princeton Hydro, PPD Design, and GK+A Architects. The achievement of the project team to deliver a brand new park that blends recreational amenities with ecological restoration follows years of community level advocacy to draw public attention and resources to the compromised wetland and abandoned industrial site.

The park serves as a safe space for recreation, in which turf fields have become an accessible space for some of Bloomfield’s immigrant populations to play soccer. At the same time, located on the Third River, an urban flood prone tributary to the Passaic River, Lion Gate Park incorporates over four acres of freshwater wetland that reestablishes the original floodplain to hold up to 10 million gallons of flood surge during storms. The land’s capacity for absorption helps to prevent some of the flooding which often takes place as the result of storms, and cleanup of the area has contributed to cleaner water entering the adjacent Passaic River. Because the Passaic River is a superfund-designated waterway, the interventions made at Lion Gate Park have helped to mitigate the toxicity of the river, serving as a model for other NJ townships with tributaries to toxic rivers that has the potential to serve dozens if not hundreds of New Jersey municipalities facing similar challenges. Lion Gate Park offers the opportunity both for recreation and restoration of the local environment, while simultaneously facilitating access to a clean environment and good health.

New Jersey Future is excited to feature Lion Gate Park and the Urban Wetland Floodplain Creation Project as one of the Smart Growth Award winners for 2022. The park is representative of smart growth values, with walkable trails in the middle of a residential area, a regenerated protected wetland which helps to mitigate flooding from storms like Hurricane Ida, and mixed-use opportunities for recreation. The dual roles of Lion Gate Park as both a source of resilience and recreation demonstrate a model of land use and planning that values the accessibility of public spaces while acknowledging and addressing the urgent need to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change in New Jersey. 


See all 2022 Smart Growth Awards winners

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