Belleville: The Cherry Blossom Capital of America
Branch Brook Park, located within Newark and Belleville, New Jersey, has become the major site of an American display of Japanese cherry trees.The park's display exceeds even the famed Tidal Basin collection in Washington, D.C., where the first trees were planted as gifts from the mayor of Tokyo.
Branch Brook's original trees were a gift from Caroline Bamberger Fuld. Mrs. Fuld donated 2,000 trees to the Essex County parks system. The year was 1927 and the donation couldn't have come at a better time since landscapers had been planning to beautify the ravine of the Second River in the park. In 1977, on the 50th Anniversary of the original gift, two Newarkers, Kathleen P. Galop and Gary Brian Liss, established the
A half million people visit the park during the month of April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. During this three-week period, thousands of people have marveled in the quiet serenity found by strolling under a canopy of pink and white petals. It is the first sign of spring and its new beginnings.
Branch Brook Park has been placed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The entire collection of cherry trees is maintained by the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs. In a typical year, 850 work hours are spent on clipping, pruning and removing dead trees, and another 900 hours go towards planting, staking, wrapping and watering new trees.
A FEW TIPS ON YOUR CHERRY BLOSSOM VISIT
Public Transportation: It is recommended that public transportation be used whenever possible, since traffic and parking are heavy during peak hours. The newly remodeled Newark City Subway, operated by New Jersey Transit, is an excellent way to visit Branch Brook Park, since the last stop leaves you off in Cherry Blossom Land. There is ample parking in Newark's Penn Station where the City Subway begins. Call New Jersey Transit at 1-800-772-2222 for additional information on the City Subway, as well as local bus routes.
Parking: During peak hours, parking is limited. There is parking at the Visitor's Center in the park. There is a parking lot on Franklin Avenue across from the Stephen Crane Apartments and parking on the park road between Heller Parkway and Bloomfield Avenue. On Sundays there is parking on the right side of the road. Also, parking is available in Newark's Penn Station and in the lot of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart off Park Avenue in Newark.
Litter: A Good rule of thumb is take out everything you bring in. Trash cans overflow very quickly, so bring an empty bag for your trash which you can discard at home. We all have to pitch in...
Vandalism: Picking blossoms damages the cherry trees and destroys their beauty. There is a fine for damaging vegetation in a county park. Please, please help preserve this beautiful natural resource.
How to Get There
From South Jersey: Garden State Parkway north to Exit 145. Go east on Route 280 to First Street Exit (stay left). At traffic light at end of ramp, make a left onto First Street. Make a right at Park Avenue (2nd traffic light). Make an immediate right into the park and follow park road to display.
From North Jersey: Garden State Parkway south to Exit 149. Make a right at end of ramp onto JFK Parkway. Go to first light, make a right onto Belleville Avenue. Proceed to third light, make a right onto Franklin Avenue. Go to fourth light, make a left onto Heller Parkway. Make first left into Branch Brook's Cherry Blossom Land.
From Lincoln Tunnel: Route 3 West to Route 21 South. Take Mill Street exit. Follow this road into park display.
Source: Brochure Developed by the 1997 Essex County Cherry Blossom Festival Committee Inc. For more information, go to http://www.branchbrookpark.org/
Belleville Public Library and Information Center