Belleville recipient of AARP challenge grant

Belleville has been selected to receive a 2022 AARP Community Challenge grant, one of eight grantees chosen statewide.

The grant will be used to promote walkability, restore neighborhood connectivity and increase community relationships as the town recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The project will use an underutilized property to create a new walking trail and adjacent gardens.

These will include Memorial Gardens dedicated to residents lost to COVID-19, along with a second community garden, which will grow fresh fruits and vegetables residents will be invited to pick and take home.

The trail will connect a dead-end street to a wide range of public facilities including parkland, the Belleville Recreation Department Building, Belleville Elementary School, Belleville High School and various commercial properties and residential neighborhoods.

“Belleville is extremely grateful to receive this grant from AARP, as it will help us on our continued mission to create a healthier and happier community and a greener and cleaner town,” Mayor Michael Melham said. “The grant will help us transform a small tract on Division Avenue into a memory garden and a healthy food garden with a corresponding walking trail. We envision this as a space with fresh fruit and vegetables ripe for picking, and a space where seniors, in particular, can utilize to stroll, stop and chat or, quite literally, stop and smell the flowers.”

 This project is part of the largest group of grantees to date with $3.4 million awarded to 260 organizations nationwide. Grantees will implement quick-action projects that help communities become more livable in the long-term by improving public places, transportation, housing; diversity, equity and inclusion, digital access and civic engagement, with an emphasis on the needs of adults 50 and older.

All projects are expected to be completed by Nov. 30, 2022, and are designed to achieve one or more of the following outcomes:

  • Create vibrant public places by improving open spaces and parks and activating main streets.
  • Deliver a range of transportation and mobility options by increasing connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding and access a wider range of transportation choices.
  • Encourage the availability of a range of housing by increasing accessible and affordable housing solutions.
  • Ensure a focus on diversity and inclusion while improving the built and social environment of a community.
  • Support communities efforts to build engagement and leverage funding available under new federal programs through laws including the American Rescue Plan Act, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and more
  • Increase civic engagement with innovative and tangible projects that bring residents and local leaders together to address challenges and facilitate a greater sense of inclusion.
  • Other community improvements, including health services, community development, and Coronavirus recovery.

“We are incredibly excited to support the Township of Belleville as they work to make immediate improvements, encourage promising ideas and jumpstart long-term change,” AARP New Jersey State Director Stephanie Hunsinger said. “Our goal at AARP New Jersey is to support the efforts of our communities to be great places for people of all backgrounds, ages and abilities.”

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.