Memorial Park Duck Pond in Summer. Photo by Lara Tomlin.

The Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy is thrilled to announce that they have been selected to receive a 2024 AARP Community Challenge Grant for a landscape project in Maplewood Memorial Park, New Jersey. The Conservancy is one of only 343 grantees awarded out of over 3,300 applications from across the United States. 

Memorial Park was designed in the 1920s by the Olmsted Brothers and Brinley & Holbrook landscape architecture firms in the picturesque style and is listed in the New Jersey State Register of Historic Places and National Register of Historic Places. This grant will jumpstart a project to create a beautifully landscaped entryway along the eastern gateway to the park, based on historic designs. A new pathway along the perimeter, as can be seen in a 1922 Olmsted Brothers “Design for a Proposed Park,” will complete the interior walking loop around the park and will allow a safe and pleasant place to walk and access the playground, courts, and ballfields. 

Landscaping adapted from early plans originally intended to shield parkgoers from the busy roadway will be installed along the path’s border. Landscape designer Jennifer C. Ryan’s thoughtful design balances sensitivity to historic precedent with adaptability to modern climate, benefits to wildlife, mitigation of stormwater runoff and the needs of contemporary parkgoers. Ryan has designed and executed all the Conservancy’s restoration projects over the past several years, based on original plans by Olmsted Brothers and Brinley & Holbrook.

Phase one of the project, funded by AARP, will be completed by December. This will include the walkway and the plantings at the entryway, which will be framed by eight majestic Dawn Redwood trees. Volunteers will plant 125 shrubs and perennials. Seating and plantings along the border will be installed in subsequent phases.  

The Conservancy has been developing the plan for several years, working with Maplewood Township officials, administration, and the Engineering Department, and receiving approvals from the Historic Preservation Commission and New Jersey Historic Preservation Office. “Walk This Way,” a popup event using an AARP toolkit to mockup the proposed project, was held to gather public input.

Proposed path and plantings perspective looking north from swingset at playground. Illustration by Jennifer Ryan.

Conservancy chair Deborah Lyons notes, “We are honored that AARP saw the tangible value this project will bring to our community. I think what made this grant proposal so competitive was that the project furthered the goals of AARP to make communities more livable for people of all ages by providing pedestrian safety and accessibility while also aligning with the Conservancy’s goal of restoring original design elements of the park as part of its mission to restore and improve our historic park as a vibrant community asset.”

The AARP Community Challenge grant program funds innovative, quick-action projects that inspire change in in areas such as public places, housing, transportation, digital connectivity, community resilience, and more. Information on the Memorial Park project and all 343 grant projects this year can be found at aarp.org/CommunityChallenge.


The Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy is a 501©3 nonprofit organization working with the Township of Maplewood to restore and maintain Memorial Park. The Conservancy develops long-term master plans, designs and executes landscape projects, hosts engaging events, performs regular maintenance, and seeks funding sources to ensure the park continues to serve the needs of our community.

For more on the Conservancy, visit its website: Maplewood Memorial Park Conservancy.