During the annual League of Municipalities in Atlantic City, the New Jersey Society of Municipal Engineers (NJSME) recognizes outstanding municipal engineering projects throughout the State. This year, we’re proud that three of our projects have received this honor. This week, we introduce the Union City Police Memorial Park, honorable mention in the NJSME’s Parks/Rec category.
Union City ranks as the second most population dense city in the Nation. So ensuring the City’s existing recreation areas can continue to accommodate its residents means keeping older parks updated and safe. The original Police Memorial Park was one such park. It was built to honor Nicholas Guiardo, a policeman killed in the line of duty in 1974. But, you may not have known it was built in memorandum unless you glimpsed the small bronze plaque adorning the entrance as you made your way into the park. The rest of the park consisted of a crumbling foundation, several aging play apparatuses and a single spray tower. Union City saw the opportunity to not only restore the park but also honor five additional fallen police officers.
The success of this project hinged on a high level of communication with the City’s police department as they had specific requests for how they wanted their colleagues remembered. A certain level of innovation was required to employ some of their more specific requirements. Because the police department wanted an eternal flame, the design team had to come up with a creative solution as a continuously lit flame on site posed safety concerns. The team chose to utilize a large sculpted granite flame to meet this requirement. To satisfy other conditions, the team employed a bronze statue of a kneeling officer facing three large, black granite slabs. Mounted on these slabs are the bronze plaques with the names, likenesses and biographies of the six officers. An ADA ramp curves into the memorial, while benches and landscaping are placed throughout the site. These efforts provided the police with a memorial worthy of honoring their six colleagues.
The active side of the park was completely redesigned to become law enforcement themed and remind park goers of the City’s everyday heroes. A helicopter and police car jungle gyms were customized with Union City colors and the police department’s emblems. The spray park sits on a Union City Police badge and includes a yellow spray motorcycle and multiple water spouts. An 8-foot faux wood fence encircles the park and showcases artwork provided by the police department. The installation of new lighting, recycled rubber flooring and an emergency phone tower has increased the park’s safety, while native plant life was used in the landscaping to reduce maintenance and be visually appealing.
With ingenuity and careful planning, the park’s layout was reoriented to utilize the maximum area within the constraints of the existing space. This community now has the versatility of an active park for amusement or a passive park for reflection. With the families of the deceased in attendance, the City reopened the facility during National Police Week.