Cary Africk: The Edgemont Pond Morass in Montclair

Former 2nd ward councilor Cary Africk offers his opinion on Edgemont Pond project.

For the third time Council has rejected bids for the construction at Edgemont Pond because the cost estimate was exceeded.

From the beginning this project has been mishandled. Mistake after mistake has been made, going on four years. A Green Acres Grant is funding the project, and we’ve been unable to even spend other people’s money!

This is also the third time that the Town has looked to refurbish the pond. The first two were failures. This one is headed in the same direction.

The last time, perhaps eight years ago, the pond was drained and THEN a bid request was sent out. A budget of $250,000 had been set up. The bids came in three times that amount. The pond stood empty for a year, until the administration decided to do “whatever $250,000 would buy, ” i.e. nothing. This is similar to the first attempt perhaps 15 years ago. The pond was simply refilled.

This time we had the money, secured by Town Manager Joe Hartnett.

The project was put out to bid for an engineering firm to prepare an RFP. I looked at the proposals. The least qualified, least experienced one was chosen.

They prepared an RFP for construction, which was sent out.

A winning bidder was chosen. In reviewing their proposal I discovered the he had bid the wrong materials because our purchasing department failed to send him the right specification update.

We re-bid and the project came in $20,000 over the $800,000 budget. We rejected that bid. How in the world did we do that? $20K could have easily been found!

Then we came up with the idea of testing the sediment, hoping it would come out contaminant free and we could re-bid and get a lower price.

We did and came in with dramatically higher bids. This where we are now.

Other mistakes compounded the situation. Failing to apply for permits in a timely fashion, failure to send in payment for permits, etc., etc.

Since it has been something like four years since the grant was given us, we’ve had to renew it twice.

All the above was sent to the Council by me, and the only one responding was Councilor Schlager who after questioning the Manager Tuesday night got a simple response from him to “don’t worry.”

It’s time to move this project forward.

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  1. Perhaps, ROC, because Cary is a taxpayer and therefore entitled to a well engineered and pleasant park? What a concept!

    I suppose we’ll be heron more about this – I am egret to hear what’s next.

  2. As I said elsewhere – find the people who feel as you do about this and get them out in the park. Hopefully you can get a couple hundred of the park’s friends and neighbors to turn out.

  3. Any $$$ spent on a masonry edging for the pond is un necessary. Several similar parks around here, (Grover Cleveland Park & fishing pond, for example) from the same vintage and design firms, have no masonry edgings around the ponds. However, the cement water ducts are important structures because its probable that the owner of Portland Cement, Thomas Edison (illustrious Baristaville Resident) probably worked on them himself.

  4. This is a dog bites man story. When the town undertakes a project, brings it in at or below budget and on time, wake me up from my self-induced coma and I’ll start dancing a jig. In the meantime, go the f*%^ away! I’ll just assume that everything is a boondoggle until told otherwise.

  5. frankgg,

    As usual, your ability to relate the “proper way” to do things, a way that works and reflects historical sensitivity and appreciation, is apparent.

    I believe the pond in Verona Park has the proper approach, but I’m not in a position to say how Edgemont should be done.

    But here’s what I do know. The pond is filled with sediment. The ducks are WALKING in the pond because in some areas it’s only an inch or two deep. And the walls have crumbled all around.

    The pond is shallow, even when it’s properly maintained.

    It is not a cement wall that is being proposed, it’s a stone look alike called “Redi Rock.” It’s OK. But it has to be installed properly.

    My note is about the operational deficiencies — our ability to spend tons of money and get little for it. When I first became involved in town issues I was told “Montclair has a reputation for paying twice what’s necessary, and getting half the result.” There are too many situations like this. Edgemont is one.


  6. It seems like there is no one accepting the responsibility to do the right thing…there is absolutely no reason to spend money on masonry edging for the pond, whether there was one or not. The pond is manmade and nothing more than a dammed up brook in a grassy field. (like Watsessing Lake was in Bloomfield.) When there is too much muck settling, just dredge it out… don’t have to spend ANYTHING on edging….and in an economic crisis like the current one….it would be irresponsible and reckless with taxpayer money to do so.

  7. ….and if most people want a masonry edging…let people buy a brick with their name on it to replace the existing edging… (like in front of the Library or NJ PAC) Let the whole, “your name on a brick” initiative fund the entire park repair.

  8. At the other end of town a group of volunteers, adults and kids, have been cleaning up Bonsal Preserve annually. Everyone gets muddy and dirty, has a great time, and their contributions build “ownership” of the space. It is exactly what you want to have happen.

    If Edgemont Pond is so full of silt, a bunch of volunteers who bring their own shovels and wheelbarrows could very likely improve conditions in a similar effort. The township could donate a dump truck and haul out the removed silt. If concentrated duck poop make this more hazardous than wading in the Bonsal stream, it cold be an adults-only affair. It is quite doable.

    As for the concrete edging, can this possibly be a priority? And as for Green Acres funds, redirect it to something else.

  9. OK, I’ll say it. I’ve danced around this but it’s all gone on too long. ‘townie’ got it right – what’s missing in Edgemont Park is citizen involvement and LEADERSHIP.

    Get out into the park. Get your councilperson involved. If needed apply constant pressure by whatever reasonable means you have.

    But stop simply pointing out the obvious – yes, the pond needs repair and yes the town government has failed miserably to take any effective action. Now let’s see a plan of action and people getting involved.

  10. Townie, We need more of your outside of the box thinking. I would show up for an annual town dig at the Edgemont Pond. It would be the least I could do for all the hours my kids spend in the playground. Bring a bucket and a shovel.

    It could by quite a community building experiment (and cost saver). Town could provide food, entertainment, bathrooms and some direction. Line up 50 dumpsters on Valley Road and fill them up with muck.

    We probably could get 500 to 1000 people to participate. Jeez, half the kids in town have community service requirements.

    How much would we save with a social works approach?

  11. BUT…whenever there is availability from well-meaning volunteers…I have unusually encountered a bit of intransigence from elected officials. It seems that even with the possibility of saving money with available volunteers….its my impression that they are already involved in their own interests…so they rather see money being spent. Try to get a volunteer initiative going and you’ll see it turn to a can of worms…..

  12. How refreshingly wonderful to see people actually take positive action. The best of luck. Please keep us advised on the group’s progress and challenges.

  13. The Friends of Edgemont is scheduled to meet next on Wednesday, September 12th at 7 pm in the boathouse (northeast corner of the park). On the agenda, aside from the dredging project, will be the progress of our committees (thanks to Selma and her committee, who commented above, we have just received 501 c3 status and will start fundraising in earnest.)

    We’ll also talk about other plans for fall, including a clean-up date with our improvements committee.

    Contact us at to be included on our mailing list.

    We welcome your participation and hope you can attend!

    Many thanks and hope see you at the park!

    Chris Beckett
    Ad Hoc Steering Committee Member

  14. Great! I am excited to participate and am eager to do some research about the engineering of the water. Last year an intern did a study for me regarding Grover Cleveland Park and found the original project complete and on file in archives in Newark. I think that Thomas Edison was directly involved in the concrete work in Edgemont Park and thats why I think that it is unnecessary to replace the masonry edging that was an afterthought anyway. this could be an important learning tool for NJIT (for example)

  15. Frankgg:

    Fascinating bit of trivia regarding Edison’s concrete! If you have any documentation regarding that project, I’d love to see it as I am working on a comprehensive history of the park (which is sketchy at present, but beginning to take shape). We hope that we will publish it and sell it as part of our fundraising efforts.

    I will bring what I have for you to see on Wednesday next.

    Look forward to meeting you!
    Chris Beckett

  16. Hello Chris:

    I will gather some material that I have regarding the laying out of Grover Cleveland Park. They are all public documents obtained from the Essex County Archives, but you probably already did this search for Edgemont Park. I will certainly try to find info at the Edison Museum about the local cement projects that he did. There are also some local experts on Edison’s cement work (some stories are funny, like cement outdoor furniture – guess those never got off the ground!)

    Looking forward to the meeting! Thank you!

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