UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Board of County Commissioners officially broke ground on Tuesday, June 29, on the county’s first inclusive LGBTQ+ affirming park space. The new park space will be located within Cedar Brook Park in Plainfield.
“We know that fostering a sense of belonging and connectedness increases the quality of life for individuals. This new park space has been intentionally conceived and thoughtfully designed to create an affirming and safe environment for LGBTQ+ people and others who support equity and inclusion, and strive to normalize acceptance,” said County Commissioner Chairperson Alexander Mirabella.
The new park supports the commissioner board’s goals for diversity and inclusion in county parks and throughout Union County, and it recognizes the positive effect such spaces have on public health and wellness.
“Incorporating opportunities to encourage diversity and inclusion in our everyday lives is essential,” said County Commissioner Vice Chairperson Rebecca Williams, liaison to the LGBTQ Ad Hoc Committee. “We are happy that this will be a space for all members of the Union County family to meditate, congregate and enjoy year-round.”
Studies reported by the Trevor Project, SAGE, GLAAD, GLSEN and other leading LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations show that lack of physical and social activity opportunities contributes to the health disparities for LGBTQ+ individuals. LGBTQ+ people are at elevated risk for poor mental and physical health, compared with straight and/or cisgender peers. Because this risk is related to social stigma, discrimination and the harmful ways LGBTQ+ people are treated, and not to being LGBTQ in itself, increased acceptance and affirmation can reduce health risks. All individuals that identify as LGBTQ+ deserve access to spaces that positively and emphatically affirm their LGBTQ+ identity.
The new park space is slated to open in October, just in time for LGBTQ History Month, and will be located in Cedar Brook Park north of Randolph Road, across from the Shakespeare Garden. Among the features within the park will be a walking trail lined with historical placards; an inclusive playground with intergenerational attractions, and sensory friendly and ADA-compliant elements, including swings designed for children and adults to swing face-to-face, traditional playground equipment and activity panels centered around auditory and musical expression; the first meditation maze in Union County, one of at least two spaces designed for reflection and meditation; a wildflower garden along the brook; an outdoor stage for performances; and a resource kiosk, with information on programs and services available.