Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy Receives 2024 AARP Community Challenge Grant

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From Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy:

The Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy announced today that they have been selected to receive a 2024 AARP Community Challenge Grant. The Conservancy is one of only 343 grantees selected out of over 3,300 applications from across the United States.

This grant will jumpstart a project to create a beautifully landscaped entryway along Oakview Avenue and Valley St. A new pathway through the park from Oakview Ave that will connect to the walkway along the basketball courts at Park Rd. will complete the interior walking loop around the park. This will allow a safe and pleasant place to walk and access the playground, courts, and ballfields. Landscaping originally intended to shield parkgoers from the busy roadway will be installed along Valley St. bordering the path. Phase one of the project, funded by AARP, will be completed by December. This will include the walkway and the plantings at the Oakview entryway, which will be framed by eight majestic Dawn Redwood trees. Volunteers will plant 125 shrubs and perennials. Seating and plantings along the border will be installed in subsequent phases.

The Conservancy has been developing the plan for several years, working with Township officials, administration, and the Engineering Department, and receiving approvals from the Historic Preservation Commission and State Historic Preservation Office. “Walk This Way,” a popup event using an AARP toolkit to mock up the proposed project, was held to gather public input.

Conservancy chair Deborah Lyons notes, “We are honored that AARP saw the tangible value this project will bring to our community. I think what made this grant proposal so competitive was that the project furthered the goals of AARP to make communities more livable for people of all ages by providing pedestrian safety and accessibility while also aligning with the Conservancy’s goal of restoring original design elements of the park as part of its mission to restore and improve our historic park as a vibrant community asset.”

Landscape designer Jennifer C. Ryan’s beautiful plan balances sensitivity to historic precedent with adaptability to modern climate, benefits to wildlife, mitigation of stormwater runoff and the needs of contemporary parkgoers. Ryan has designed and executed all the Conservancy’s restoration projects over the past several years, based on original plans by the Olmsted Brothers and the Brinley & Holbrook landscape firms.

The AARP Community Challenge grant program funds innovative, quick-action projects that inspire change in in areas such as public places, housing, transportation, digital connectivity, community resilience, and more. Information on the Memorial Park project and all 343 grant projects this year can be found at

The Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy is a 501©3 nonprofit organization working with the Township of Maplewood to restore and maintain Memorial Park. The Conservancy develops long-term master plans, designs and executes landscape projects, hosts engaging events, performs regular maintenance, and seeks funding sources to ensure the park continues to serve the needs of our community. For more on the Conservancy, visit the website.

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