Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T!
America’s First County Park➤
Branch Brook Park protects the largest and most diverse collection of blossoming cherry trees in the world. It began in 1896 in Essex County, NJ as the first county park open to the public in the US. The Bamberger Family, having made their fortune in department stores, donated the cherry trees in 1927. The expanded park was popular during the Great Depression. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
The groves grew to around 2000 trees, but by 2005, the original trees were dying out. Public support and the Branch Brook Alliance saved and restored the park. Today there are close to 5000 trees blossoming in the Spring.
I headed over to Branch Brook on the first sunny April weekend. I began at the Cherry Blossom Welcome Center at the crack of dawn. The welcome center features displays inside and offers tours seasonally (there is also a self-guided mobile phone tour which I did dial in to a few times.) I took a few pictures here and then drove to the other end of the park via the park road.
Branch Brook Lake lies at the southern end of the park with the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart on its East side. The blooms were just starting here as it had been a very cold Spring. The day I snapped these photos, it was a chilly 34 degrees.
The Prudential Lions guard the West side. These are replicas of the original limestone sculptures, crafted by Karl Ritter at the turn of the 20th century. The president of the Branch Brook Alliance (and wife of the Prudential CEO) restored the originals and moved them to the Essex municipal building for their protection.
Location: Lake Street & Park Avenue, Newark, NJ 07104
Designation: County Park, National Register of Historic Places
Date designated/established: January 12, 1981
Date of my visit: April 21, 2018