Brookdale Park offers the public access to both passive and active recreational activities as well as picturesque vistas. Trails for walking and running, lush groves and extensive lawns, playgrounds, sports fields, track facilities, tennis courts, an archery range and stadium grandstand are just some of the numerous attractions that make Brookdale Park a magnet for nature lovers, families, and physical fitness enthusiasts for miles around.
This park contains a segment of the 36-mile Lenape Trail, a unique urban/suburban trail connecting 18 parks and 11 municipalities in Essex County. A guide to the trail, including comprehensive trail maps, has been written by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference in close collaboration with the Essex County Essex County Dept. of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Affairs and can be found here.
Brookdale Park is located in the northernmost part of the eastern section of Essex County, bordered by Watchung Avenue, Grove Street, and Bellevue Avenue, and lies within the municipalities of Montclair and Bloomfield. It is the third largest park in the county system, containing 121.41 acres.
The land that is now Brookdale Park was at one time used as a gathering place by the Lenni-Lenape Indians. During the 17th Century Dutch settlers moved into the area and transformed it into farming and grazing land. The fields came to get the name Stonehouse Plains, which is what the area was called until the late 1800's when the location was to get a post office. It was then decided that Stonehouse Plains was too long a name, so it was changed to Brookdale. In 1928 land purchases began for the future park, and were completed in 1931.
Park construction began in 1928 according to design by the Olmsted Brothers. The basic work was in place by 1930. When the Depression hit, the work that was originally estimated to take only a few years was extended to many years. Construction became dependent upon labor available from the WPA and ERA agencies, who completed the major work by 1937. The result is one of the County's most beautiful parks.
On May 22, 1937, the park had its first AAU track meet. On June 11, 1959, the North Jersey Rose Society donated 750 rose bushes, establishing the rose garden, a major attraction to this day.