RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Those people swarming around Memorial Park at Van Neste Square in Ridgewood this weekend, looking up at trees, come from all over the world.
They’re a team of arborists, architects, landscape designers, and electricians.
And they’re all students here to help bring about a $250,000 transformation to the park.
Those 16 old incandescent streetlamps may have been charming back in the day.
Ditto for the 70-year-old wiring.
The transformation, known as the Van Neste Lighting Project, will update everything.
Bye-bye, lamps. Hello, 270 dimmable, low-wattage LED bulbs to illuminate pathways and trees and highlight the historical monuments.
After three days of working, project leaders will flip the switch on the project at 7:30 p.m. Monday — one night only – and show the public what’s in store when the project is completed next year.
When all is completed in 2017, the park also will have an audio system.
The upgrade is a project of the Conservancy for Ridgewood Public Lands, charged with restoring and enhancing village park lands.
The project has multiple objectives: to enhance the park’s usability, safety, beauty, and energy efficiency.
The whole thing started in 2014 when Philip Davis opened Kilwins, the candy shop, across the street and noticed the park was dark at night.
“It’s a beautiful park and such an underutilized piece of property,” he said.
Immediately, Davis envisioned the potential for public events that would enhance both the social and business life of downtown Ridgewood.
Bill Gilsenan and former Councilwoman Gwenn Hauck, both trustees of the Conservancy, drew Janet Lennox Moyer and Brooke Silber, architectural lighting designers, into the project.
The two are partners in Jan & Brooke, Luminae of Glen Rock .
They, in turn, drew in the students, all of whom are taking the Intensive Course of the International Landscape Lighting Institute , a nonprofit founded by Moyer.
There will be a total of 80 electrical outlets throughout Memorial Park, and each can be individually controlled, Gilsenan said.
According to Silber, each of the 270 lights being installed ranges from two to 10 watts.
“That should give us a much more even distribution of light across the park, making it easier to have events,” she said. “It also creates a much more safe environment because your eyes aren’t adapting to really bright light.”
The park is now home to events such as health fairs, food tastings, and art shows. Gilsenan said villagers already are thinking of new events they could have, including author readings and a Shakespeare in the Park series.
The lighting system is low maintenance, too, according to Silber, who said the LED bulbs have to be replaced every 25 years.
To date, the Conservancy has raised half the money needed to complete the project.
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