From the Meadowland Park Conservancy:
SOUTH ORANGE: A memorial honoring fallen soldiers in Meadowland Park received its first major upgrade in decades and just in time for Veterans Day in a collaboration led by the Meadowland Park Conservancy.
Memorial Rock, adorned with plaques containing the names of some 70 residents that perished in military conflicts dating back to World War II, is now encircled with a newly laid circle of paving stones to emphasize its significance.
The project, completed this fall, was a joint effort between the Conservancy (MPC) and local Eagle Scout candidate Aidan Sheridan. It was the first phase of MPC’s larger ambitions for the memorial that sits beside the pond.
“We wanted our first project to be one that helps to remember and honor the past while supporting the idea of community,” said Bill MacIntosh, a member of the conservancy’s steering committee who oversaw the project. “The idea is to make Meadowland Park a place to bring people together.”
A second phase for the project, likely to start in the spring, will fill out the surrounding area with native plantings and flowering shrubs. It will be dubbed Gold Star Garden and Amphitheater.
The initial phase kicked off earlier this year when Sheridan approached the MPC seeking ideas for a project to earn the scout’s highest merit badge. That aligned with the Conservancy’s own ambitions to take on an infrastructure project at the site.
“It was a good catalyst for us,” said MacIntosh, a licensed architect. He drew up plans for the circular paver stone design and coordinated with village officials and contractors.
Meanwhile, Sheridan raised some $2,000 toward the project and recruited a team willing to put in the “sweat equity” required to dig up the old asphalt surrounding the memorial in preparation for the pavers. The Conservancy covered the balance via member donations.
This partnership is one that the town can be proud of, said South Orange Village President Sheena Collum. “This improvement to a sacred space in our village means so much to so many people in South Orange and beyond. The Village’s leadership is fully behind the MPC’s work to make our park the showcase we all know it can be, and the new Gold Star Garden and Amphitheater is a huge step toward that goal.”
Most importantly, improving the memorial “reminds us and gives us a place to think about and commemorate those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” said lifelong resident Edwin Matthews, a Vietnam war veteran who has been active for years in the town’s memorial activities. Matthews said most of the families of those named on memorial rock have passed or left town. “It’s up to the younger generations to commemorate the fallen.”
Meadowland Park Conservancy, established in 2020 is a non-profit volunteer organization that strives to improve upon South Orange’s largest and best open space. The 45-acre park straddling the Rahway River, encompasses both passive and active recreational spaces including the green expanse of Flood’s Hill, the pond and walking and biking paths. The MPC’s previous efforts include native plantings around the Skate House, a new park map and organizing multiple events to bring the community together.
For more information please visit (www.meadownlandpark.org).
Photos by Matt Glass: