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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 6, 2003

Contact: Elaine Makatura
(609)292-2994

DEP Commissioner Campbell and Mayor Douglas Palmer Announce Renovation of Trenton Park

(03/140) TRENTON ---Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell and Mayor Douglas Palmer today gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the planned revitalization of Agabiti Park in Trenton. Agabiti Park is a half-acre park in the heart of the Chambersburg section of Trenton. Commissioner Campbell and Mayor Palmer were joined by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Liz Johnson of the Coalition of Conservation and Dr. Joseph Youngblood, of the John S. Watson Institute for Public Policy at Thomas Edison State College.

"Parks greatly enhance a community's economy, environment and culture," said Bradley Campbell, commissioner. "Creating and improving our green, open spaces make our cities and towns cleaner, healthier and more livable," he added. "Under the leadership of Governor McGreevey we regard recreational land as an essential element of a livable community's infrastructure."

DEP's Parks for People initiative focuses on providing recreation lands, urban wildlife preserves, and quality open spaces in cities, suburbs, and other developed communities throughout New Jersey.

"With this half-million dollar open space upgrade, Agabiti Park will be a haven for residents and restaurant-goers in Chambersburg," Mayor Douglas H. Palmer said. "Next spring, when ornamental plants are blooming, people will be able to enjoy a new gathering place with a lighted fountain, brick and cobblestone detailing, and accommodations for people with disabilities. This is an important extension of the city's efforts to renovate Roebling Avenue."

"The restoration of Agabiti Park not only highlights the rich and vibrant heritage of Chambersburg, but contributes to the continuing renaissance of this unique district whose ability to attract visitors throughout the tri-state area is so critical to the economy of the Capitol City," said Assemblywoman Coleman.

"The Administration should be commended for achieving a balance between suburban and urban park funding," said Assemblyman Gusciora. "While it is important to secure open space dollars to prevent sprawl, our urban residents deserve adequate recreational space for its residents to enjoy."

"Community parks are the life blood of healthy vibrant communities," said Liz Johnson. "Every child needs good outdoor space for play and exercise, and we need to do more to provide these important spaces where they are most needed in our developed communities."

"I am extremely excited about the restoration of this historic site, and others like it around the state. It ensures that we will continue to have beautiful and safe recreational facilities for all of our children and families while creating New Jersey's next generation of nature lovers and environmental protectors," said Dr. Youngblood.

Commissioner Campbell reminded voters that they will have an opportunity to decide the fate of a public question that would make available up to an additional $150 million for park improvements and open space purchases on Election Day, Nov. 4.

Public Question No. 1, a constitutional amendment, proposes to increase the bonding capacity of the Garden State Preservation Trust to $1.15 billion, an increase of $150 million from the $1 billion voters approved in 1998. The increased bonding would place no additional costs on New Jersey taxpayers. The sales tax dedicated in 1998 to pay off Garden State Preservation Trust bonds would cover these additional bonds by taking advantage of today's lower interest rates.

The location of the park, at Roebling and Whitaker Avenues, has been publicly owned since 1875. A Trenton school was on the site until 1940 when the building was demolished. A park was developed on the lot that year and the site has been used as a park ever since.

Over time, the park deteriorated. As part of the restoration plan for the Chambersburg area, the city, along with residents and the Chambersburg Restaurant Association, developed a plan that recreates the park as a European style plaza to reflect the ethnic background of the neighborhood residents.

The new space will be a gathering and destination place that ties in with the restaurant district. It will feature an ornamental fountain and large plaza for gatherings and social events. Other design elements will include brick or slate paving, lighting, signage and trees.

The work at the park is being funded through DEP's Green Acres program. Green Acres provided the city with a grant for $417,500 and a loan for $82,500 for the project.

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