Bayonne’s parks have ridden a wave of countywide revitalization initiatives in which millions in grant funds from the state and county have been combined with local bond issues. The town is becoming ever greener with waterfront walkways, open fields, wildlife preserves, and sports facilities.
Along Newark Bay, walkways and wetlands offer captivating views with water fowl, piers, fishing boats, and huge container ships plying the waters of the bay.
Stephen R. Gregg Park is the biggest in town, with more than 100 acres of soccer and baseball fields, a track, walking paths, and ample spots for fishing. Established by the county in 1916, Gregg abuts Richard Rutkowski Park, a 40-acre wetlands preserve in the shadow of Newark Bay Bridge. A narrow, zig-zagging boardwalk crosses marshlands and tributaries, perfect for birding, with sightings of herons, egrets, and other local birds.
Farther south is 16th Street Park, formally known as the G. Thomas DiDomenico Park, well-known for its annual summer concert series run by the city. It’s also the site of a youth rugby tournament, “Pirate-Palooza,” organized by the Bayonne Bombers Rugby Club and the city recreation department.
Dennis P. Collins Park
Dennis P. Collins Park, along the Kill Van Kull, is one of Bayonne’s athletic centers, recently upgraded with tennis courts, volleyball courts, baseball diamonds, and bocce courts, all with excellent views of the Kill.
New facilities also include an agility course similar to those in dog shows, where dogs scale obstacles and scurry through tunnels.
The skate park at Collins Park draws the countywide skate community, which would otherwise be exiled to the streets. The monolithic concrete construction, which features quarter pipes, rails, and jumps, was widely celebrated by locals after the closure of “The Bridge,” an indoor skate park.
Green space is an important consideration with the advent of major housing developments on the former MOTBY site.
James J. Donovan Park, dedicated in 2015 to the former mayor who lobbied for Bayonne’s military terminal, and the 9/11 Harbor View Memorial Park mark the beginnings of green space development on modern MOTBY. Parks will be a major draw with the proliferation of residential buildings, retail establishments, and new job markets, such as those created by e-commerce and logistics warehouses.
Once a month, members and friends of the Bayonne Nature Club pick up hundreds of bags of trash that get washed up on land from the waters that surround the peninsula. These efforts, bolstered by a citywide park cleanup on Earth Day, help keep litter from turning Bayonne’s parks into an eyesore.
The group is the recipient of the NJ Clean Communities Award. Everyone is encouraged to lend a hand. Contact the group at bayonnenatureclub.org. It’s dirty work, so volunteers are advised to dress accordingly.
The Bayonne Nature Club also invites enthusiasts to tag along on one of its near-weekly bird walks along one of the dozens of walkways throughout the city. Each season brings new species; the club has reported some rare sights, including snowy owls, bald eagles, falcons, not to mention gray seals, basking in the sun on rocks and old pilings. —BLP