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April 23, 2024

Contact: Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795
Vincent Grassi (609) 984-1795

Recommended Funding Package is Highest in 15 Years, Reflecting Administration’s Commitment to Overburdened Communities and Inclusive Recreation

earth week 2024 image(24/P014) TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette today announced $117 million in recommended Green Acres funding for development and enhancement of parks and preservation of open space. Representing the highest level of Green Acres project funding since 2009, the DEP’s recommended funding package reflects the Administration’s commitment to overburdened communities and inclusive recreation. 

imageThe funding recommendations, announced in celebration of Earth Week, will improve recreation opportunities for residents across New Jersey and now advance to the independent Garden State Preservation Trust (GSPT) for review, approval and submission to the New Jersey Legislature for appropriation. 

Commissioner LaTourette joined with local and state officials to announce the recommended investments during an Earth Week event at The Monroe Community Garden and Park in Monroe Township, Middlesex County, which is among the 49 completely inclusive playground projects recommended for funding. The DEP is recommending $33 million to significantly expand the number of completely inclusive playgrounds for differently abled children. For a complete list of projects recommended for funding, and to learn more about the Green Acres Program, visit

“New Jersey is poised to make a historically significant investment in its parks and the people who depend on them for recreation, open space and a sense of community for all,” Governor Murphy said. “The grants and loans proposed for these projects will provide opportunities for residents and visitors alike – across the Garden State – to engage in healthy activities, enjoy the outdoors and spend quality family time together.” 

“The Murphy Administration recognizes the importance of ensuring that outdoor recreation is not only inclusive for all individuals, but safe in terms of quality equipment and surfaces,” Commissioner LaTourette said. “As we celebrate Earth Week, it is especially meaningful that we are adding playgrounds throughout New Jersey to give more children the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and connect with one another, while also expanding the public’s inventory of open space and lands statewide." 

“Since its establishment in 1961, the Green Acres Program has dutifully protected New Jersey's natural and cultural gems, preserving more than 681,000 acres of open space and aiding over 1,200 park initiatives. Green Acres perpetuates a tradition of conservation and recreation for future generations,” said 14th District Senator Linda R. Greenstein. “Monroe Township's plan for the Monroe Community Garden mirrors this legacy, embodying stewardship and community enhancement, fostering a sustainable connection between nature and residents that will endure through time.”

“During the Earth Week celebration, it is crucial that we make efforts to restore our planet. The introduction of the Green Acres funding is a remarkable step toward ensuring equal access to parks throughout our state,” said 14th District Assemblywoman Tennille R. McCoy. “This initiative not only enhances recreational options but also fosters community well-being and environmental responsibility. I commend New Jersey’s dedication to improving our parks and providing new recreational opportunities across the state. These projects not only help mitigate the effects of climate change but also enhance the overall quality of life for everyone.”

“We thank the Department of Environmental Protection for their commitment to and investment in the completely inclusive playground project to help 49 playgrounds across the state become more inclusive and provide equitable access to recreational activities and spaces in the community. This effort aligns with our Inclusive Healthy Communities program to make New Jersey inclusive for all where they live, work and play,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman.

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to improve The Monroe Township Community Garden Park as envisioned in our Master Plan thanks in large part to this funding,” said Monroe Township Mayor Stephen Dalina.  “I would like to thank Governor Murphy and Commissioner LaTourette and our 14th Legislative District representatives for their significant investment in this much anticipated project.”

Green Acres funding allows local governments and nonprofits to leverage millions of additional preservation dollars through matching federal, state, county and local funds, as well as from private sources. Many of the projects recommended for funding this year address inclusivity and recreation for all, especially in Overburdened Communities. 

For this funding round, Green Acres expanded a 2023 county-focused pilot program, inviting municipalities to also apply for grants to create completely inclusive playgrounds, constructed in compliance with standards established by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs

A picture containing outdoor, sky, tree, ground  Description automatically generatedBY THE NUMBERS

Green Acres has recommended $108 million in projects to the GSPT, including:

  • $24.3 million for 29 local (municipal and county) land acquisition projects; 
  • $40.1 million for 40 local projects developing parks and recreational facilities; 
  • $33.1 million for local development of 49 completely inclusive playgrounds; 
  • $1.8 million for six local stewardship projects;  
  • $5.7 million for 11 acquisition projects by nonprofit organizations;  
  • $3.6 million for four nonprofit recreational development; and  
  • $309,000 for two nonprofit stewardship projects.  

Once approved by GSPT and appropriated by the Legislature, these funds will help create new parks, expand and revitalize existing parks, acquire land, improve waterfront access, develop athletic fields and playgrounds, create open space and enhance land stewardship. 

In addition to these projects, DEP has approved $8.6 million in Urban Parks grants for park development projects serving Adversely Stressed Overburdened Communities in Urban Aid municipalities. 

The DEP prioritized Green Acres and Urban Parks projects that contribute to resilience or mitigate climate change impacts by protecting forested and flood-prone areas, enhancing chronically inundated wetlands, revegetating riparian areas, connecting wildlife corridors, expanding upstream flooding attenuation potential, promoting wildlife and/or including green infrastructure. 
Funding proposed for these projects comes from both the DEP’s Green Acres Program, funded by the Corporate Business Tax, and the Urban Parks Program, which is funded by a state budget appropriation. 

 “The Green Acres Program looks forward to working with our local government and nonprofit partners to complete these critically important acquisition and park development projects,” said Martha Sullivan Sapp, Green Acres program Director.  “We are funding projects in every county in New Jersey, ensuring residents and visitors have high quality, close-to-home parks and open spaces to enjoy.” 


Children playing on a playground  Description automatically generated with low confidenceThe most significant change in this year’s funding recommendations is a major expansion in the eligibility and number of Jake’s Law projects, resulting in the approval of 49 completely inclusive playgrounds in 16 counties. For the second year, Green Acres is recommending 75% matching grant funding for these types of projects, expanding from only counties in 2023 to counties and municipalities in this funding round. 
Among the completely inclusive playground projects recommended for $1 million each in matching funds are: 

  • Saddle River County Park in Bergen County would have accessible play equipment for various age groups, safety surfacing, replacement of existing lawn and landscaped areas, seating and a fence around the playground perimeter. 
  • The existing playground at Washington Park in Union City, Hudson County would be replaced with a fully accessible and inclusive playground serving residents of all abilities. 
  • Inclusive playground equipment with fencing and a paved area for small children to learn how to ride a bike or self-propelled wheeled vehicles are proposed for South County Park in West Amwell, Hunterdon County

In addition to these projects, another 23 completely inclusive playgrounds are recommended to receive grants of $750,000 and 23 others would receive grants ranging from $330,000 to $915,000. 


Although land acquisition and historic preservation projects are also eligible for Urban Parks funding, all 14 requests received this year are for recreational park development projects. These types of projects can include games and sports, picnicking, fishing, biking, swimming, nature and historic interpretation, or similar activities. 
Fourteen local governments in 11 counties will receive funding for projects in their communities. Among them: 

  • The growing popularity of pickleball in Willingboro Township, Burlington County, has the community proposing new pickleball courts and a walkway at Millcreek Park that meets Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. 
  • Six pickleball courts are among the amenities proposed for City Park in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, along with fencing, parking and lighting for existing basketball courts. 
  • Hoboken in Hudson County would enhance 800 Monroe Resiliency Park with tennis courts, walking paths, gardens, a splash pad, dog run and green infrastructure, complementing a sub-surface flood resilience plan for the site. 
  • New Brunswick in Middlesex County would transform Alec E. Baker Park with multiple improvements. These include a splash pad, fitness circuit equipment, a walking/jogging path, dog park, picnic area, soccer field, basketball court and playground renovations. 
  • Seidler Field in Plainfield, Union County, would receive inclusive playground equipment, a rubber safety surface and landscape improvements. 
  • Inclusive and accessible playground equipment, along with a new safety surface, benches and picnic tables, are proposed for Mercer Street Park in Phillipsburg, Warren County.  


Major local projects approved for matching grants of $1 million or more include: 


Atlantic City would make bikeway improvements to the scenic Gardner's Basin Waterfront Park and parking areas. Funds would also enhance signage, landscaping, lighting and electric vehicle charging stations. 


  • A picture containing water, water sport  Description automatically generatedThe county wants to transform a greenway at Carlton Hill Bergen County Greenway Park in East Rutherford and Rutherford with paved pathways, seating, landscaped areas and fencing. 
  • Columbus Park in Garfield would be enhanced with passive and active recreation activities including an amphitheater, fountain, playgrounds and paths for biking, walking and jogging. A restroom building, parking improvements and stormwater management facilities are also proposed. 
  • Wood-Ridge Borough would put additional funding toward acquisition of an 11.8-acre property next to a new residential development for active and passive recreational pursuits including trails, a dog run, multi-purpose field, playground and restrooms.  


Mount Holly proposed an athletic field and canoe launch at Iron Works Park. The township also proposes lighting, walkways, bleachers and ADA parking. 


Cooper River Park in Camden proposes enhancing Cooper River Park with a playground, fitness equipment, shade structures and landscaping.  


An inclusive playground featuring a sensory garden, exercise circuit stations around an existing running/walking track, and a new restroom facility are proposed for the Joseph E. Romano Sports Complex in Vineland.  


  • A couple of people playing football  Description automatically generated with low confidenceWatsessing Park in East Orange would receive new playground equipment, updated playground safety surfacing, fence replacements, walkways and accessible seating.  
  • Belleville Municipal Stadium in Belleville would receive structural and accessibility renovations to grandstands and restrooms and undergo reconstruction of concrete stands for wheelchair accessibility and improvements to the concession stand. 
  • Newark, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, proposes developing Broadway Park for playgrounds, playing fields, additional lighting, art, rain gardens and a community garden. 
  • Colgate Park in Orange would replace the existing asphalt circulation path, rehabilitate the gazebo area, add new playground equipment and enhance landscaping.  
  • Cameron Recreation Area in South Orange would receive new tennis and pickleball courts, a picnic grove, seating area with tables, two basketball half-courts and a porous surface circulation path with fitness stations. The area also would receive native riparian buffer plantings to help reduce stormwater runoff into an adjacent stream at the nearby Meadowland Park and downtown area.  


  • Bayonne would continue developing its Newark Bay Waterfront Access Project, also known as 16th Street Park, to stabilize the shoreline, expand the boardwalk, install street-end access ramps and a fishing pier, improve the existing revetment and reconstruct the boat ramp. 
  • Hoboken would continue to make improvements to Southwest Park, including athletic courts, play structures and other features. The proposed project would complement a subsurface detention tank with the capacity to capture 600,000 gallons of stormwater. 


The former American Biltrite Rubber Site in Trenton would be converted and transformed into the proposed Amtico Square Skatepark Complex with night sky friendly lighting and a shade structure. Several multi-purpose game courts would be constructed at the park for bicycle polo, street soccer, tennis, basketball and volleyball. A trail would be built along the creek toward Capital City Farm and the D&R Canal Towpath.  


  • Carteret proposes expanding Waterfront Park with an accessible walkway from the park to Noes Creek that includes a boardwalk, railing, lighting and site furnishings. Part of the walkway would extend out over the water for a scenic overlook. 
  • Perth Amboy will renovate fields at the Veterans Memorial Youth League Complex for baseball, soccer and lacrosse. An expanded patio and picnic area with a shade structure would be added, along with sheltered dugouts, scoreboards, landscaping, fencing, stormwater management improvements and a walking trail connecting the complex to nearby Willow Pond Park. 


  • Two significant projects are proposed in Paterson. The first is continued historic restoration and landscaping of Passaic County’s Lambert Castle by enhancing a planting area, restoring an irrigated lawn area, reconstructing a trellis structure walkway and statuary exhibit space, and making accessibility improvements. Paterson also plans improvements to Vista Park that call for 40,000 square feet of green space, pathways, an amphitheater, new playgrounds, observation deck, outdoor classroom space and more. Vista Park offers views of the city, Garret Mountain County Reservation and Paterson Great Falls National Park. 
  • Passaic plans to add spray pads, shade structures, pervious surfacing, climbing structures, inclusive equipment, bicycle racks and more to Colonel Johnson Park. 


  • A second phase of improvements is recommended for the Rushmore Avenue Recreational Complex in Plainfield. The existing children’s pool would be replaced with a splash pad and the current adult pool would be expanded to competition-size. A pool shade structure, shaded picnic area lounging area and spectator seating are also proposed.  
  • Weber Park in Union Township would get a new soccer field with bleachers, field light and a shade structure with barbecue grills. The existing athletic courts for handball, tennis and basketball would be renovated. 


Phillipsburg would initiate a rails-to-trails project by acquiring an existing rail bed that runs through much of the town. The city intends to transform the property into trails that would enhance the downtown, offer community recreation opportunities and provide habitat for wildlife. 


New Jersey’s Green Acres program was created in 1961 to meet the state’s growing recreation and conservation needs. Together with public and private partners, Green Acres has protected nearly 725,000 acres of open space and provided hundreds of outdoor recreational facilities in communities around the state. To date, the total acreage of protected open space and farmland across New Jersey exceeds 1.5 million acres. 

Green Acres projects create jobs and stimulate economic development by making communities more attractive places to live and work, consequently boosting civic pride. They also improve air and water quality, providing residents with a better quality of life. 

The DEP is a partner in the Governor’s Population Health Challenge, which calls on state agencies to promote public health through their policies. Studies have found that investments in parks and recreational amenities positively impact health and fitness, resulting in less strain on the health-care system. Studies also demonstrate that people are likely to be more physically active if they live close to parks and recreational facilities.