My friend, alias Goodegg, recently planned her son’s birthday at a park on Labor Day weekend. She did considerable research and gave me the lowdown on reserving a spot:

How long does it take to get a permit? 

It takes anywhere from 2-6 weeks to get a permit.  They will not tell you if your desired space is available upon application; they assign usage based on what is available at the time your application is processed.  You have to wait until you receive the permit in the mail in order to find out whether you have the space for the date/time you desire.  I was told that Van Saun is often reserved months in advance because it’s a popular birthday party site; the other parks are not as popular so you have a better shot if you’re planning something last minute.  So, if possible, plan early and submit an application as soon as you know you want to host your party at one of the county parks!  

How do I acquire a park permit?

1. Check out the different parks on the county website listed below.  You will probably want to go in person to check out the various picnic areas and/or pavilions to make sure the space will accommodate your party needs.  

http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/Parks/index.html

2. Call or visit the Parks Department.  If you call the Park Permits number, you can leave a message requesting an application be mailed/faxed to you.  If you visit, you can fill out and submit an application on the spot.  The number and address are below.

BERGEN COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PARKS

One Bergen County Plaza – 4th Floor; Hackensack, NJ 07601-7076

 

TEL: (201) 336-7275
FAX: (201) 336-7262; 
Park Permits: (201)336-7261 

3. Have a few dates in mind as they ask you to list alternate dates (in case the space you requested is not available).  

4. If you go to the Parks Department to fill out an application, bring 2 checks with you – one for the cost of using the space (pavilion or picnic area), another for the security deposit (they will return it to you in 6-8 weeks if you follow the proper clean up protocol).

5. The cost of a pavilion space is $155.  You can have 1-199 people at any of the pavilions.  The cost of a picnic area varies, depending on the number of people you will have in attendance.  The security deposit is $225, but you get it back if your party cleans up after the event and trash is properly bagged and left in an area that is easy for pick up.  A ranger may stop by during the time of your party – you need to give him your permit and he will send it to the parks department.  If a ranger does not stop by, you can mail it into the parks department and as long as they have not discovered any problems after your party, you will be mailed your security check in full.

6. After you submit your application and appropriate fees, you will be sent a notice in the mail confirming date/place of your reservation.  The notice will request that you fax or mail proof of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to the Park’s Department.  One they receive proof of insurance, they will send you an official permit.

How long did it take for you to get your permit?

It took them 2 weeks to get back to me, but my requested date was not in March – August, the most popular times.  

“color: #000000; “>Can I call to check where I am in the queue?

No, you can not call to check where you are in the queue.  I didn’t try because I didn’t want to tick off the lady was in charge of approving the applications!

So, when should I submit my application to best assure me a spot?

They require that applications submitted between March and August must be submitted at least 3 weeks before the earliest date you would like to reserve.  All others must be submitted at least 2 weeks before the earliest date.  That is the minimum requirement.  If you are interested in reserving a space at Van Saun Park, it’s probably best to submit an application months in advance of your event since they told me it was the most popular spot for a party.  If you are interested in one of the other parks in the area, it would probably be wise to submit an application at least 2-3 months in advance of your event since the approval process can take up to six weeks and you probably want time to prepare and send invitations, etc.

Seems like it would make sense to notify people by email instead of snail mail. What if it gets lost in the mail?

I’m not sure why they don’t inform people of their park assignments through e-mail. – it’s faster, reliable, and free!  Anyway, in the process of securing the permit, we did end up discovering that the woman in charge of permits does have an e-mail address.  

Just curious, why rent the pavilion instead of renting a tent?

For the space alone, this option cost us $150 since we plan on using the picnic tables that are in and surrounding the pavilion (assuming we get the $225 security deposit back in full after the party is over).  Renting a tent + tables/chairs for the number of people invited would have cost upwards of 400 dollars…and if you’re planning on pitching the tent on public grounds, there may still be a fee associated with getting a permit for the use of a picnic area.

What was the deciding factor for the park you chose?

Saddle River County Park/Dunkerhook in Paramus has a restroom (not a porta-potty) located approximately 25 yards from the pavilion.  This, along with the proximity of the playground, was key for me.  I wanted to make sure that there was a clean restroom facility that was easily accessible for our guests and their children.  The restroom looks like any other park restroom from the outside, but inside you find that the facilities are regularly cleaned and they have been recently renovated.  The only thing that hasn’t been renovated are the cloudy mirrors…but no one really needs to use the mirror that much in a public park, right?

Dunkerhook because it met all of my criteria for an outside public party space – it is clean, it is set off by trees and semi-private, the pavilion is wired for electricity, and it is adjacent to a playground/restroom/parking lot.  The other spaces met some of the criteria listed above, but Dunkerhook seemed to be the best fit for our needs.

The other two parks I checked out were: Saddle River County Park/Wild Duck Pond in Ridgewood, Wood Dale County Park in Woodcliff Lake

Any comments on cost for reserving a picnic space (without the covered pavilion)?

I’m not sure if the pavilion space is cheaper than a picnic area because I didn’t express interest in a picnic area.  I do know the cost associated with getting a permit for a picnic space is dependent upon the number of people in attendance.  The cost for a pavilion is $155whether you have 1 person or 199 people in attendance.

 

Anything else to keep in mind?

Not all the spaces have grills.  If you plan on throwing a bbq, make sure the space           

 

you are looking at has a grill or be prepared to bring or rent one!