Branch Brook Park in Newark, New Jersey, is America’s first county park, the product of the pioneering work of Essex County in creating the nation’s first county park system in 1895. Located on a site selected by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and designed by his sons, the park provides 360 acres of green space in one of New Jersey’s most urban centers. The park is administered through a very successful public/private partnership between Essex County and the non-profit Branch Brook Park Alliance.
By the 1990s, dwindling public monies and shifting government priorities had led to the park’s benign neglect. This sparked concerned citizens to form the Branch Brook Park Alliance in 1999. Working closely with the county, the Alliance applied to have the park listed on the National Register of Historic Places, commissioned a cultural landscape report, and developed a treatment and management plan. These efforts have served as the foundation for a $50 million restoration effort which now is almost complete.
Volunteers are the backbone of the Alliance, undertaking a variety of activities including helping to clean up the park, leading tours, and researching the park’s history. Many have been involved in the Cherry Tree Collection and Legacy Tree Care Program. The park is home to the largest and most varied collection of flowering cherry trees in a landscape setting anywhere in the world. Volunteer professionals trained and worked with other volunteers to implement a cherry tree management program. Volunteers of all ages have participated, with student interns from several local universities and high schools completing a computerized inventory and GIS mapping of the historic trees.
Designated a Preserve America Steward in August 2012.