Willingboro residents celebrate their town’s first county park

Willingboro Mayor Tiffani Worthy (center) joins local and county officials to cut the ribbon on the township's first county park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Willingboro Mayor Tiffani Worthy (center) joins local and county officials to cut the ribbon on the township's first county park. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

What was once a sand excavation site in Willingboro is now the newest Burlington County Park.

The ribbon was cut Wednesday on Willingboro Lakes Park, located off U.S. Route 130 on Beverly-Rancocas Road. It’s the first county park in the township.

Some residents could not wait until the official Thursday morning opening to visit.

“They were building it, so I drive by here and I’m like, ‘Oh, let me go on the way home and see if they’re open yet,’” said Judy Grove, who has been monitoring the park’s progress. “I was like, ‘It looks like I’m going to get in.’ There’s cars, so I took the dogs and said, ‘Let’s try.’”

Grove, a longtime resident, grabbed her dogs, Rudy and Sally, and walked part of the trail.

Judy Grove, a Willingboro resident for 45 years, walks her dogs, Sally and Rudy, at Willingboro Lakes Park. The township’s other large recreation area, Mill Creek Park, does not allow dogs. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“They’re tired cause we didn’t even make it halfway around the one lake and I’m like, ‘I’m done,’” she said of her first visit. In addition to bringing her dogs, Grove said she and her husband looked forward to fishing at one of the three fishing piers at the park, as well as possibly kayaking.

She’s not the only one excited about fishing at the park.

Aaron Davis, another longtime resident, said he liked the piers. “I’m looking for the bass, I’m looking for anything they put in there.” He also appreciates the gazebos in the park.

“Sometimes fishermen have families and they don’t like just to fish,” he said, “so the family can do one thing and the fisherman guys can go out there.”

Williingboro resident Aaron Davis is looking forward to using the new park’s fishing piers. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

In addition to the fishing piers, the 105-acre park also has nearly three miles of hiking trails, a small-group pavilion, log-themed play area and, of course, picnic and grilling sites.

Willingboro Mayor Tiffani Worthy praised the partnership with Burlington County and how they engaged the community.

“They asked the residents what did they want. ‘What do you want to see? What do you enjoy doing?’” she said. “They took that information … and this is what we have now; we have a park in Willingboro that the residents want and essentially designed.”

Burlington County Board Director Felicia Hopson said the ball began to roll for the park within the last couple of years.

“The previous mayor – Martin Nock – he had reached out to the county board asking that we take a look at what was happening with this particular location and see if we can come back and redo what we had started,” she said.

Burlington County Board Director Felicia Hopson speaks at the grand opening of the 105-acre Willingboro Lakes Park, the first county park in the township. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The partnership goes back further than that to 1997 when the township and county purchased the property. The county took control of it in 2011 to develop the park.

After meetings were held following Nock’s outreach, groundbreaking took place in Aug. 2019.

Hopson noted that there are still several phases to go, including connecting the new park to Mill Creek park.

Willingboro is Burlington County’s largest majority-people of color community. Willingboro Lakes is the 12th park operated by the county.

Kayakers paddle at Willingboro Lakes, Burlington County’s newest park, and the first county park in Willingboro. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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