Ridgewood Park opens with playground for children with special needs

Photo Courtesy of Newark
Newark officials cut the ribbon on Ridgewood Park, which includes a playground for children with autism and special needs.

NEWARK, NJ — Mayor Ras J. Baraka; South Ward Council Member Patrick Council; Recreation, Cultural Affairs and Senior Services Director Donnell Redding; and Nassan’s Place President Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr cut the ribbon to open Ridgewood Park on July 11. The park is located at 189-193 Ridgewood Ave. in the South Ward of Newark.

“Creating inclusive outdoor environments for our city’s children to play in is critical to support their growth,” Baraka said. “We are proud to be opening the city’s first park designed for children with autism and special needs. This is a welcoming place, which will bring families together and enhance the quality of life in the neighborhood. We will continue to find innovative ways to create parks and recreation opportunities that support the well-being of all of our city’s children.”

The new park is the renovation of a preexisting, but outdated playground. It will provide new equipment for youth ages 2 through 12, as well as a separate section with sensory play equipment for children with autism and special needs.

The Essex County Recreation and Open Space Trust Fund Local Aid Program provided a $150,000 grant for the project in June 2020.

“An ongoing priority of my administration has been to modernize our parks and recreation facilities to meet the changing needs of our communities. Projects such as this not only improve our residents’ quality of life but also enhance property values and promote economic development,” Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo Jr. said. “Modernizing the playground is a welcome addition to the city’s South Ward and will provide places where our children can play, build social skills and exercise.”

“As an autism mom, I am very excited and grateful to Mayor Baraka, the Newark Municipal Council and the city of Newark for their ongoing endeavors to support families impacted by autism. This sensory-friendly park is an example of their commitment to ensuring children and families living with an autism diagnosis have access to environments that can help them thrive and have fun in their community,” said Wright-Arbubakrr, who founded the East Orange–based nonprofit organization Nassan’s Place. “Nassan’s Place looks forward to continuing our partnership with the city of Newark in helping to enrich and make a difference in the lives of children and families affected by autism.”

The new playground offers a rubber safety surface, colored concrete sidewalk within the park, backless and circular benches with seating for parents, and shade and ornamental trees. 

As the event closed, it was announced that the city will create a second park for children with autism and special needs on Hunterdon Street between Avon and Madison avenues next spring.