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Great Places In New Jersey

By on January 10, 2014

What makes a place great?

The American Planning Association thinks great places are where people want to be … to live, work, play and visit. Great places are fun, they’re public and accessible, and they’re culturally and historically interesting.

You shouldn’t be surprised to hear that our state has lots of great places!

Here are a few choices of the American Planning Association and its New Jersey chapter, which put out annual lists:

• Newark’s Branch Brook Park.  It’s the crown jewel of the Essex County park system, serving as a backyard and playground for thousands of urban residents in surrounding neighborhoods. It’s also a destination for over 100,000 visitors each spring, who come to admire the nation’s largest collection of blossoming cherry trees. (Sorry, Washington, D.C. – you’re not number one!)

• Camden County’s 346-acre Cooper River Park.  This urban park is a hub of activity, with a boathouse and boat launch, golf academy, miniature golf course, cross country running course, playground, pavilions, dog park, softball fields, bike paths, picnic areas, sculpture garden and memorial grove.

• The South Hoboken waterfront. The Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, with its dazzling views of the Manhattan skyline, connects several parks and is a great place for a stroll. And it’s only a short walk from the waterfront to another “great place,” historic Washington Street, appreciated for its quaint storefronts and variety of shops and restaurants.

• Haddon Avenue. This main drag in small-town Collingswood, a suburb of Camden, is listed as one of America’s great streets.  The American Planning Association describes it as “a mixture of small town friendliness and larger city diversity.” And it’s earned smart-growth accolades with a new residential-commercial development, known as the LumberYard, strategically located next to public transportation.

The New Jersey chapter of the American Planning Association places special emphasis on downtown areas, especially those in older communities that frequently struggle to compete with automobile-dependent shopping malls. Folks who frequent downtowns know how exciting and vibrant they can be, with lots more variety than the usual mall chain stores and restaurants.

This year, the downtown areas of Freehold, Westfield and Montclair were added to the New Jersey chapter’s list, which already included Bordentown, the historic Perth Amboy waterfront, Madison, Grove Street Plaza in Jersey City, Broad Street in Hopewell and Pier Village in Long Branch.

Why not try a shopping expedition to one of these great downtowns this holiday season?

What do you think? Do you know of a great place, street or park? The American Planning Association and its New Jersey Chapter are looking for recommendations for 2014 and want to hear from you!

To suggest a “Great Place in America,” visit the American Planning Association’s website at http://www.planning.org/greatplaces/suggestion/suggestiondetails.htm. To help the state chapter identify great places, go to http://njplanning.org/great-places-in-nj/great-places-in-new-jersey-easy-suggestion.

And to learn more about preserving land and natural resources in New Jersey, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at info@njconservation.org.

The State We’re In … by Michele S. Byers,
Executive Director, New Jersey  Conservation Foundation