Our Beginnings

After 20 years of residing at the foot of Yantacaw Brook Park, Bill Lenchinsky was going to have to move. It was the realization he came to about six months ago - that the ranch house on Woodmont Road just wasn’t big enough for the family. But his 13 year-old daughter, as befitting the clarity of youthful innocence, saw it differently. “Dad, you can never replace the view of Yantacaw Brook Park from our house,” Ali proposed.  “Let’s just make it bigger. Put a second story on,” her father recalled. “And that’s what we did,” he said. The epiphany made such an impact that Lenchinsky, and other concerned citizens just as passionate and concerned about the park, wanted to do more. This past September, Lenchinsky and residents Tom Sullivan and Janet Shapiro created the Yantacaw Brook Park Conservancy.  Formed to promote and sustain the 11.5-acre park, the group is collecting funds for several major landscape improvements. “We all got together and said we should do something,” said Lenchinsky, noting that strains on the municipality’s budget and the need to sustain the park were primary reasons for the group’s formation. “The city has done a wonderful job of assisting us and improving our ideas.  But it’’s all about doing what we can to help them,” Lenchinsky said. The group intends to find ways to fund improvements or maintenance in the park, he said,”and keep it at the quality level it should be.” The conservancy promotes neighborhood awareness and encourages utilizing the park for social gatherings and community camaraderie, said Lenchinsky, 56, who is a partner and owner of Sigma Stretch Film. “We wanted to get an organization that brings neighbors together.” Lenchinsky said. “It’ll be something that will be here forever. I’m proud to be part of that.” There are about 50 members so far, with Lenchinsky as vice president, Sullivan as president, and Shapiro as secretary and treasurer, according to Lenchinsky and the group’s website. Before the group was organized, the trustees held a spring cleanup of the park. The Township Council last month issued a proclamation to the nonprofit conservancy. “It gives me great pleasure to represent a group such as the Yantacaw Brook Conservancy, this group of dedicated residents formed primarily for the enhancement of the park.” 1st Ward Councilman Rich Murnick stated to The Times.  “We in Montclair benefit from open space, and others around town can now benefit from this group’s tremendous efforts and generosity.” Murnick later told The Times that the group is dedicated: “These people all live around the park.  They want to contribute to a park-only initiative, and I think it’s great.” Many improvements have already been conducted in the past several weeks. Eric and Diana von Hoffman, co-owners of von Hoffmann Landscape Architecture Inc., which has been in business in Montclair since 1986, were hired by the group to work on projects at the park, such as the renovation and restoration of a portion of the pond edge, returning it to its natural habitat, Diana von Hoffmann said. “With more and more development over time, plants and animals and insects are wiped out that are important to the ecosystem,” she observed. “It’s been neglected over time,” Eric von Hoffmann said, noting that they have already installed a couple hundred plants, all native to the northeast part of the United States. Winterberry holly, a variety of gold and red berries that persist into the winter, and witch hazel, an early- February bloomer, are among some of the natives planted in the park. At the park’s Club Road entrance, they re-positioned the existing signage and installed a planting bed with a selection of native plants, shrubs, and a tree, as well as a large boulder. At the Woodmont Road entrance, similar native shrubs were planted, as well as a swamp white oak tree. “Part of the plan is to restore the large trees there that have been lost over time.” Eric von Hoffmann said. The park is located in the northeast section of town, and runs from near the border of Bloomfield toward Northeast Elementary School, explained Montclair Environmental Coordinator Gray Russell, who applauded the group’s efforts. “It’s great that these local neighborhood groups are forming to take care of our wonderful parks in town...It’s terrific,” Russel said. The company intends to work on the walkways in the park to make them more pedestrian friendly. Sullivan said that because of the economic stress the town is experiencing, the group wanted to help maintain and make some capital improvements to the park while working on projects closely with municipal officials. “No one’s really taking care of it,” Sullivan said. “We hope to to fill that gap.” The funding that has already come in has been donated by residents, according to Sullivan.  Although he did not disclose the amount, more funding is needed to enhance the park, Sullivan said. Residents are encouraged to join by visiting yantacawbrookparkconservancy.org “We hope that maybe we can put together some social events,” Sullivan said.  “The objective is to make the park the centerpiece of our community.” 

Contact T.D. Shoudy at shoudy@montclairtimes.com