Recreation At Your Doorstep In Roxbury Township
By Marge Cushing
All year round, Roxbury Township residents can enjoy a wide range of recreational activities scattered throughout their twenty-two mile square community without the need to stray far from home.
Mooney Mountain Park, in the upper section of Ledgewood (with a Flanders’ mailing address), named for the Mooney family who operated a dairy in this area in the 1900’s, contains playground equipment and a paved basketball court. Fishing is available across the road in Conkling Pond, named for Calvin Conkling who bought the circa 1800 lovely Meadow Lake Farm House at the junction of Conkling and Mooney Roads from Silas King in 1853. The Conkling family farmed the extensive acreage surrounding the house into the 1950’s.
Nearby Veteran’s Park on Patricia Drive contains 240 miles of hiking trails with scenic views of Succasunna in the valley below where the township had its beginnings in 1740.
Situated in the Succasunna Plains, is the Horseshoe Lake Park Complex whose centerpiece is a spring-fed lake with swimming and fishing areas surrounded by lighted basketball courts, volleyball courts, softball/baseball fields, soccer fields, and a concession stand. Also featured is a 1.7 mile walking/ biking/running path. The West Morris Greenway, a branch of Patriot’s Path connects with the park and leads to a five mile path to Chester.
As one steps onto the sandy shore of Horseshoe Lake, it is hard to believe that traffic on Route 10 is just a bit more than a stone’s throw away. The tree-ringed lake vista includes a view of a charming gazebo accessed by crossing a stone bridge that can be reached by walking along Memory Lane, ringed by cherry trees and park benches commemorating local residents. From time to time, one just might catch a glimpse of a pair of swans gliding across the rippling water, or more often a mallard and her ducklings paddling dutifully behind her. Common at the lake in summer are invitational swimming competitions attracting young swimmers from surrounding areas to the lake’s picturesque setting.
Included in the complex is Imagination Station Playground, created with township grant monies and donated labor by dedicated residents, and a forty by eighty foot pavilion built by Roxbury Rotary for use by large gatherings by appointment, both projects reflecting citizen participation so prevalent in the township.
When visiting the complex, take time to pause at the Veteran’s War Memorial commemorating local veterans dating to the Revolutionary War, their names inscribed for posterity on metallic plaques. Nearby is the Sept. 11, 2001, Memorial featuring a piece of structural metal salvaged from the wreckage of Manhattan’s ravaged World Trade Center, prompting reflection on that fateful day when two township residents, Kenneth Zellman and Joseph DeLuca lost their lives along with thousands of other innocent victims at the hands of brutal terrorists. Take time to give thanks that a new World Trade Center has risen on the original site, a testament to America’s strength and resilience.
Also honored in this part of the park, with a massive stone marker, are those who lost their lives in the Hercules Powder Company explosion that rocked the community in 1940, along with other employees throughout the years who lost their lives pursuing the dangerous, but essential manufacture of explosives.
In 1949, Harry “A” Chesler, born in 1897 to a local grocer and his wife, bought 250 acres off Eyland Avenue on Righter Road from the Righter family who since 1881 had operated Maple Grove Dairy, with a good deal of the parcel devoted to potato farming and haying. The creation of Horseshoe Lake was the fulfillment of Chesler’s dream to replicate a lake in the shape of a horseshoe at which he had vacationed in upstate New York. Horseshoe Lake is a spring-fed ninety foot deep former sandpit operation, one of many that existed in the early days of the township, and was privately operated into the 1970’s.
A true American entrepreneur, Chesler had engaged in a variety of careers in his lifetime, including that of a skilled cartoonist, with his writings and works on permanent display at Fairleigh Dickerson University in Madison.
The parcel was purchased by the township from the Chesler family in 1973 for diversified development. Its mission has obviously been accomplished, with the Horseshoe Lake Complex and other recreational facilities in the township having contributed to its being recognized as the first community in the state to receive designation in 2011 as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People across the entire nation.
Not all recreation is physical, and several years ago, ownship resident and former councilman Tim Smith envisioned a Roxbury Performing Arts Center to be developed for the cultural enhancement of the township and surrounding communities. Interested citizens, the Roxbury Arts Alliance, and businesses answered the call to transform a cluttered storage area in the township building, which houses the Recreation Department, into an intimate theater in the round.
With donations of money and labor, including Investors Savings Bank’s significant assistance, the dream was realized. Roxpac Investors Theater operates in conjunction with the Roxbury Arts Alliance with the support of the Recreation Department. Dramatic and musical performances are scheduled in the theater throughout the year, with open air events on the outdoor stage in the field behind the lake during summer months.
This building also contains a Teen Center and a well-appointed Senior Citizen Center.
Moving on to the Succasunna’s pre-Revolutionary Main Street, there is pond-side Black River Park at the eastern end of the street where it meets with Route 10. It offers benches and picnicking on property that from the early 1900’s into the 1930’s was known as Triple Lake Dude Ranch that enticed city dwellers to, “Come for a country experience and get ‘yer fill of ropin’ and ridin’.” Rustic trails along the river lead to Mine Hill and Randolph.
Access Ledgewood/Morris Canal Park which along with the Morris Canal is on the National Register of Historic Places. Fish in the pond or hike along the route of the canal’s plane two east, the best preserved inclined plane in Morris County, which takes one uphill past the old canal keeper’s house to High Ledge with interesting vistas at the top. Dotted throughout the 250 acre forested parkland are remnants of three hundred year old iron mines dating to the Township’s roots as a mining community in the early 1700’s.
The Ice Age Trail, its name recalling the days thousands of years ago when the entire area was a glacial plane, offers a 1.3 mile-long hike with some challenging steep areas.
For tennis lovers, newly renovated tennis courts can be found at Berkshire Valley Park along with a modern court lined for basketball, street hockey and the latest “Foursquare,” site of the 1821 two room school house, the Lafayette School. A leisurely paved walking path, playground equipment and picnic tables complete the offerings. Kiwanis Park off Eyland Avenue at Makin Lane in Succasunna includes three newly resurfaced lighted tennis courts, a playground and lighted baseball fields.
Port Morris Park contains a playground, basketball court and a softball field; Dell Avenue Park, in Kenvil has a fenced in playground for younger children, as well as picnic tables, basketball courts, and baseball fields.
Two more baseball fields can be found in the Succasunna Fields when no games are scheduled.
At the foot of Mooney Mountain In Ledgewood, Nalron Park on Emmans Road contains a softball field, and adjacent Emmans Park along the same road offers soccer fields, a baseball field and a Dog Park.
The Shore Hills Playground is in Landing, and coming soon is beautifully designed Landing Park, which will include a walking path, a concession stand, a playground and up-to-date restrooms.
Midland Park is tucked into a cul-de-sac off Meadowview Road in Succasunna, off Eyland Avenue on the north-bound side. It contains a small pond and a natural wooded path.
For those with a green thumb in need of exercise, but lacking gardening space, Vickery Community Gardens, named for past mayor Tom Vickery, provides the solution, with its former Lines family farmland, the former Gentle Slope Farm, allotted to residents by arrangement with the Recreation Department each spring.
All recreational facilities are for the use of Township of Roxbury residents regardless of where they live within the township. For detailed information, go to www.roxburynj.us, or call the office of Dave Stierli, Recreation Department director at 973 448 2015.