Officials broke ground on Mary Ellen Kramer Park, a parcel of land located few feet from Hinchliffe Stadium, at the Great Falls National Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Family members of the city’s former first lady were in attendance. “Mom absolutely loved the Paterson Great Falls,” said Kip Kramer, her son. “We used to tease her that she was second only to Alexander Hamilton.”
During the second half of the 1950s the state of New Jersey wanted to build a highway through the land that is now designated as a national park that would have sliced the park in half, but their efforts were thwarted by Mary Kramer, whose husband, Lawrence Kramer, who was present during today’s event, was the city’s mayor.
“If it weren’t for Mary Ellen Kramer we wouldn’t have this park,” said Leonard Zax, president of the Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, an organization that played a pivotal role in the park’s designation. Zax said Mary Kramer imagined the city’s future could be based on its past, and that was one of the reasons she fought vehemently to oppose the planned highway.
Lanisha Makle, the director of the Department of Community Development, whose department is playing a role in revitalizing the park, said by January 2015 the park will become presentable to the public. “This is a 14 months project that will commence today,” said Makle.
“We’ve identified some contaminants because of the past industrial use of this park that needs to be pulled out,” said Darren Boch, superintendent of the national park. Before construction can begin soil from the park has to be dug out and new soil must be placed – or what is called “capping” has to be done.
“We’re going to pull out all that fencing,” said Boch while pointing to the black fence that runs down the edges of the water fall. “We are going to re-establish that old stone wall and there’s going to be a path alongside it so you’re going to be able to enjoy the view of the chasm in an unobstructed way.”
This small park inside the larger national park will mark the beginning of construction at the site where very little has been done since the national designation. With construction beginning at the site “members of the larger community will see physical sign of progress,” said Bill Pascrell, junior, who played an important role in getting the federal government designation.
Money for the work to be completed at the park will come from the State’s Green Acres program ($1.6-million), the Passaic County Open Space program, which is set to provide $440,000 in funding, and various local sources. Mary Kramer, whose entire family was present at the groundbreaking, passed away in 1993. “Mary Ellen believed before anybody else, what was at that time a very shabby area, could be and should be turned into a very special park,” said Pat Kramer.
“As children we really did grow up here, we’ve been here a lot, and we loved every minute of it,” said Kip Kramer.