Trenton's Cadwalader Park

"A Paddling Destination"


Trenton's Cadwalader Park, "A Paddling Destination"


November 8, 2009


After many years, our final takeout on the D&R feeder canal is extended to Trenton's Cadwalader Park. This trip is leg  2 of 5 on our annual Fall D&R Canal Paddling series. The total paddling miles for the D&R Canal is now 55 miles starting at Bulls Island and ending at New Brunswick.


During the last several years a lot of work by the city of Trenton has been accomplished. This park has a rich history and is a great place to visit.


Thank you to the City of TRENTON  for a wonderful Paddling destination.



George & Leona Fluck


Cadwalader Park Background

The park honors Dr Thomas Cadwalader, the community's first chief burgess and a pioneer in the use of preventive inoculation.


In 1887, following the purchase of Ellarslie Mansion from George Farlee, a committee of the Common Council for the city of Trenton began to seek a location for what would become the City Park. Edmund C. Hill -- a baker by trade, a developer by avocation, and a member of the Common Council -- was chairman of the committee and principal advocate for the idea of the City Park.

After the purchase of the Farlee estate, the city contracted the landscape designer, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted's style is defined by natural rolling landscape, plantings of various species and subspecies of trees and shrubs, the consistent use of curved footpaths and roadways, and often the addition of animals in a natural habitat.

Though perhaps best known for his design of Central Park in New York, Olmsted applied the same approach to the nearly one hundred acres of the former McCall estate, resulting in what is now Cadwalader Park.

With over 100 acres of urban parkland, Cadwalader Park offers a deer paddock, a stream, a small lake and hundreds of trees, including some that are rare at this latitude. An arm of the historic Delaware-Raritan Canal flows through Park, a perfect setting for nature walks.



Cadwalader Park Restoration Plan


What should people know about the history of Cadwalader Park and its designer?


Trenton’s 99-acre Cadwalader Park was designed by the renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. It followed such noteworthy Olmsted projects as the U.S. Capitol grounds, New York’s Central Park, the Stanford University campus, and the Chicago site of the 1890 World’s Fair. Olmsted is viewed as the founder of the field of landscape architecture – and our park, the last one he designed (and the only one in New Jersey), is an historical, national treasure.


What did Olmsted and the original Master Plan for Cadwalader Park say about the deer paddock?


At Cadwalader Park, deer were imported against the recommendation of the Olmsted firm. In fact, Olmsted personally advised the City Park Commission against the deer paddock. His view was that “the Park is so small relatively to the number of people who will use it, especially upon holidays, that no considerable area can be set apart exclusively for a deer paddock.” Nonetheless, the paddock was established in 1895. None of the three possible sites outside the park suggested by the Olmsted firm was chosen by the park commission for what became the deer paddock. The 2000 Master Plan for Cadwalader Park outlined a need for either costly paddock improvements, coupled with the inclusion of an animal caretaker in the park budget, or for an eventual re-use of the area. The 2000 Master Plan also proposed rehabilitating the barn as an environmental education center and eliminating the deer herd, allowing for landscape and stream restorations to occur, and programming the area for public use.


NOVEMBER 6, 2008 – City Director of Recreation, Natural Resources and Culture Samuel Frisby and Director of Natural Resources Jean Shaddow discuss factors leading to the closure of the Cadwalader Park deer paddock . . .


What is the actual cost of maintaining the deer paddock?


The current annual cost is $12,000 for regular veterinary fees, plus additional fees for any animal emergencies. Feed costs were around $8,000 per year but have seen an increase recently as oil and other costs have gone up. We estimate feed costs could grow to $12,000. Since the animals must be fed daily and the paddock maintained daily, our staffing costs are estimated to be about $12,975 for Monday-through-Friday and $9,085 overtime. Factoring any unforeseen repairs to fences or buildings and tree maintenance, the total estimated cost is between $46,000 and $56,000 annually.


What was done in 2004 to reduce the herd?


In 2004 the herd was reduced to meet USDA per-acre animal recommended rates and to move toward an envisioned smaller paddock. The animals were tested for disease and then were rounded up and moved to a new farm reserve in upstate New York. Everything was done under the watchful eye of the USDA. Twelve deer remained but two were pregnant so we had 14 by spring of 2005. At that time a veterinarian performed vasectomies on the males to ensure no future pregnancies would occur. We have lost one animal in the last 3 years leaving us with thirteen animals at this time.


What is the hoped-for vision for the re-use of the Barn?


The Master Plan calls for an adaptive reuse of the building to create an environmental education center. The surrounding landscape has been compacted and is highly acidic from the animal droppings so a great deal of soil improvements will need to occur and a more natural landscape will be installed. Several organizations are interested in helping with this land restoration and hopefully with a future public use of the barn.


The City had an architectural and structural analysis completed on the barn and has plans, spec’s and cost estimates for the restoration of this historic building.


When will the deer be removed and – and when do we expect additional changes, as in changes to and/or removal of, the fencing?


The deer will be removed based on results of tests of the animals for disease and the USDA veterinarian’s schedule, possibly as early as this week. The fence will stay in place at least until the geese can be given to a new home and perhaps until the landscape restoration occurs. This could be as long as two or three years.


Have other favorite features in the park (e.g., “The Monkey House”) been dismantled or modified in keeping with the original Olmsted intent?


Many features that bring back an era of romance or nostalgia have long been gone from the park. These include the Bear Pit, formal garden areas and, yes, the Monkey House.


While these recall fond memories, none were part of the Olmsted vision. Olmsted as a young man befriended wealthy aristocrats and spent time on their vast estates, often assisting the women with landscape improvements and design details to enhance their mansions. During the days of the Underground Railroad he worked with many of these same women to help slaves find their way north to freedom. When he decided to make landscape architecture his career, he made a conscious choice to advocate for urban parks that could be respites for the working class. His vision was to provide the masses with the same opportunity to enjoy open space that he had seen his wealthy friends enjoy. His vision of parks was more pastoral and less programmed. While today’s society demands programmed recreation, the Master Plan hopes to re-create a more natural setting in the areas that it can, such as the ponds and the ravines, while providing programmed opportunities such as playgrounds, a concert area and concessions. Outdated and no longer used features, such as the Bear Pit, will be interpreted but not restored.


What Cadwalader Park upgrades have been implemented or are funded and scheduled?


Many park upgrades already have been implemented, such as improvements to West End Little League, Men’s Unlimited Basketball, the West End Comfort Station, the Rangers’ Station, the main Comfort Station, and ongoing renovation to Ellarslie, which ultimately will include a café. Ongoing funded projects that should see construction within the next one-to-two years include the picnic grove/playground/pavilion, the Cottage restoration and the maintenance compound. In addition, preliminary plans are completed for the roadway realignment (back to the original Olmsted vision) and the Barn renovation. The City also has completed a landscape plan that looked at existing trees and Olmsted-proposed trees and has developed a long-term reforestation plan for the entire park. The implementation of some of the elements of this plan has begun.


What longer-range improvements will take the park even further toward the goal of realizing the vision of the master plan?


The reforestation plan is a major endeavor that truly will recreate the Olmsted vision and ensure the park is a picturesque destination to be enjoyed for generations to come.


Restoration of the two park ravines including woodlands restoration is a long-range  project that will benefit future generations of park users. Stream naturalization and land restoration in the animal paddock will bring the western side of the park back to the Olmsted vision and open the park up for public access. Coupling this with an environmental center will provide educational opportunities for both young and old.


The café at Ellarslie and the future band shell will allow opportunities for park users to gather and enjoy the outdoors as they did when the park was created.


What steps has the City of Trenton taken to form partnerships and solicit funding from sources other than City funds?


The City has secured grants from several sources – including the State of New Jersey Historic Trust and Green Acres Programs – for both the restoration of the Comfort Station and the picnic grove/playground/pavilion project. The City also has worked with the NJ Water Authority to restore the Parkside Avenue aqueduct tunnel and has worked with Trees for Trenton to raise funds for new tree planting. Most recently, a fledgling non-profit organization has formed: the Cadwalader Park Alliance. Its mission is to raise private, corporate and foundation dollars for the implementation of the Cadwalader Park Master Plan, including capital projects, programming and long term park maintenance.


What costs and benefits were weighed when deciding to close the deer paddock?


Since the public meetings that were part of the master plan development process, City staff have had conversations and e-mail interactions with a number of residents, some of whom are quite nostalgic about the deer paddock and others who advocate for the deer to be removed, especially given Olmsted’s vision and the intent of the original Master Plan. The $50,000 annual upkeep cost for the deer paddock (as well as the $500,000 in 2000 dollars that it was estimated would be required to create an alternative smaller paddock enclosure for removing the deer from the stream and from the main barn) are very difficult numbers … especially in light of the impact in recent months of international and nationwide financial crises.


How can residents support Cadwalader Park?


Consider joining the independent, nonprofit Cadwalader Park Alliance organization, which can be reached by calling the Division of Natural Resources at 609-989-3255.