Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Morris County has unveiled its own version of Central Park. Central Park of Morris County is the name the Morris Freeholders have given to the 306-acre recreation and nonprofit mall complex the county is developing on former Greystone property.

The Central Park of Morris County name became official at a ceremony July 23 during which two in-line roller rinks and a Challenger Field for mobility-impaired individuals were dedicated.

The freeholders also turned the management of the park in Parsippany over to the Morris County Park Commission.

The freeholders purchased the land from the state for $1 in 2003. The freeholders first discussed the possibility of acquiring the Greystone property soon after the state announced in April 2000 that it was going to close the psychiatric hospital and build a smaller facility on half of Greystone’s nearly 700 acre campus.

Freeholder Director Margaret Nordstrom said the freeholders and officials from surrounding communities feared the state would sell the land to developers.

“Needless to say, the freeholders and elected officials from surrounding towns could not let that happen,” Nordstrom said. “We wanted active and passive recreation opportunities, open space and room for some of our nonprofit agencies.”

Besides the in-line roller rinks and the Challenger Field, plans call for the development of a cross country course, an outdoor amphitheatre, trails and hiking paths and an off-leash dog park.

Freeholder John Murphy said nonprofit development will also occur on the property.

Murphy said the Central Avenue Complex, which had been housing Greystone patients until recently, will be renovated to host a new human services mall for nonprofit agencies to provide their clients with “one stop” access to their wellness and recovery services.

The county decided against keeping Greystone in the name, opting to get away from the image the old psychiatric hospital evokes and to move on to the more tranquil and relaxing picture suggested by Central Park.

“Within the new park there are a number of venues that may be named in the future, including the non-profit mall,” Murphy said. “These other naming opportunities will give us the chance to honor various groups such as our veterans and perhaps some individuals who have played a significant role in the county’s history.”

Among those participating in the dedication ceremony were former Governor Donald DiFrancesco, former New York Yankee Steve Balboni and former New York Jet Bruce Harper.

DiFrancesco signed the legislation that allowed the county to purchase the land for $1; Harper is a founder of Heroes and Cool Kids, a mentoring program for youngsters involving athletes and peer leadership training that also has a substance abuse prevention component; and Balboni volunteers his time with youth leadership programs.