County Acquires Hungarian Club Property Through Open Space Program

CLARK—Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada, Freeholder Nancy Ward, and Clark Mayor Sal Bonaccorso announced Monday that Union County has reached an agreement to purchase the American-Hungarian Citizens Club and its grounds, totaling .77 acres, for $625,000 through the Union County Open Space, Historic Preservation, and Recreation Trust Fund.

The Hungarian Club was built in 1935, and had hundreds of members during its heyday in the 40s and 50s. However, membership has dwindled over the past 20 years, forcing members to consider the sale of the 4,600 square foot club hall and its grounds. The triangle-shaped property is just off Old Raritan Road, adjacent to the reservoir in Clark.

While future plans for the property are still under consideration, the grounds and its building could become a site for picnic, educational, restrooms, conference and additional passive recreational activities.

“The property is contiguous with the reservoir and provides an area for light recreational use,” said Freeholder Nancy Ward, who is also chairwoman of the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. “The acquisition goes hand in hand with the reservoir.”

Clark Mayor Sal Bonnacorso once again thanked the Freeholder Board for preserving property in the township.

“The Freeholder Board has done a fantastic job for the residents of Clark in preserving green space and improving the quality of life in our township,” Bonnacorso said. “Together as partners, we saved the reservoir from development and now we have linked a beautiful stretch of green space for future generations to enjoy. On behalf of the residents of Clark, I thank the Board and Open Space committee for this legacy.”

Tibor Pavleszek, the president of the American-Hungarian Citizens Club, thanked the Freeholder Board.

“Our organization has enjoyed a good run here at this property with many fine memories,” Pavleszek said. “We are pleased the county will ensure an environmentally-friendly use of our property that is in line with our vision and that of the community surrounding us.”

The Freeholder Board also announced the preservation of the Clark Reservoir for $1 from Clark, earlier this year. Totaling 150 acres of rare undeveloped open space in one of the most densely populated counties in New Jersey, the reservoir and its surrounding shore will become part of the 6,600 acre Union County Parks System.

In all, the county has preserved a total of six different properties since 2003 in Clark through the Open Space Trust Fund, totaling more than 195 acres acquired for just over $23.9 million.

Recently preserved acreage includes the St. Agnes property on Madison Hill Road in Clark and the former Schwarz Farm on Old Raritan Road straddling Clark and Westfield.

With these, the county has assembled a continuous greenway that links the Clark Reservoir with other parks and newly preserved land, including the Esposito Farm Park in Clark, the Hazelwood Cemetery in Rahway, and Milton Lake in Rahway.

Greenways were a fundamental part of the original design of the Union County parks system, dating back to the 1920s. The Olmstead Brothers, the same firm that designed New York’s Central Park, envisioned continuous natural pathways along the county’s streams and rivers.

In addition to their public recreation and conservation roles, the greenways also serve as natural, low cost storm drainage systems.

The county’s acquisition of these properties was made possible by the Union County Open Space, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund. Approved by referendum in 2000, the Trust Fund has far exceeded its initial ten-year goal of preserving 100 acres of open space. Including the Clark Reservoir, 313 acres have been acquired so far.

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