The Hackensack Riverkeeper has launched its 2012 Eco-Programs schedule that includes eco-cruises, river clean-ups, bird-walks, outdoor events, and paddling center activities. The schedule officially commenced on Earth Day and runs through the end of October.
Secaucus resident Captain Bill Sheehan, an active conservationist, started the Hackensack Riverkeeper in 1997 to protect the watershed and the public’s right to clean water. Since then he has stood watch over the small 50 mile long river and served as an advocate to prevent degradation and go after polluters. Each year, the Riverkeeper leads a number of activities to educate visitors about the history of the area, the wildlife, and the environment.
Exploring the river
The Hackensack River offers Hudson County residents the opportunity to get outdoors and explore nature in an urban setting. Located in Laurel Hill County Park off of Turnpike Exit 15X, the Hackensack Riverkeeper Paddling Center has a boat launch, kayak and canoe rentals in addition to eco-cruises. Approximately 3,200 people a year take an Eco-cruise, while a 1,000 people paddle, and 1,000 participate in the river clean-ups, according to Program Director Hugh Carola.
“The program is designed to give people an up close and personal experience of the Hackensack River,” said Carola. He said the program teaches, informs, and engages people whether they are sitting back and relaxing on an Eco-cruise or paddling up and down the river.
“Being out on the water at night is the coolest thing.” – Hugh Carola
The fully narrated Eco-Cruises consist of three different itineraries: “Meadowlands Discovery,” which explores the wetlands and creeks of the river’s estuary; “Boating through Bergen,” which runs upriver to the center of Hackensack and the USS Ling; and “Excursion Around the Bay,” a maritime history tour to Staten Island and back past the port facilities of Newark and Elizabeth.
“We cover wildlife, birds, fish, mammals, reptiles,” said Carola. He said that they also talk about the history of the area, which in 1945 covered 21,000 acres of wetlands. Carola said that today the wetlands and waterways consist of 8,400 acres but what remains is full of wildlife and is recovering nicely.
“The knowledge of our waterways and maritime history is lost to so many people or is a distant memory to others,” said Carola. “The more people know, the more they will appreciate, and be willing to step up to [take action].”
In addition to 18 scheduled river trips, Hackensack Riverkeeper’s 4th Annual Reservoir Challenge on Oradell Reservoir takes place on June 2 and the Second Annual Lake Tappan Paddle Day is set August 11. The annual Splash Event takes place on September 8 with paddling from Laurel Hill Park to Mill Creek Marsh.
“Being out on the water at night is the coolest thing,” said Carola.
The Hackensack Riverkeeper has three summertime moonlight paddles that leave at 7:30 p.m. and are scheduled for Friday, June 6; Tuesday, July 7; and Wednesday, August 1.
The moonlight paddle costs $30 per paddler.
Carola said that the moonlight paddle began last year as something new for people to experience. He said that “it is neat” to see the lit up sky in New York City on a quiet river while observing and listening to different birds that come out after sunset.
There is also a full schedule of guided paddles throughout the summer, which often take place on the weekends. For those who want to experience a guided paddle of the wetlands, reservations can be made in advance, and costs $30 per paddler, and $15 per canoe passenger. Adults can also rent a kayak or canoe for $25 per person. Canoe passengers pay $15. Rentals require a buddy system and at least two people.
Cleaning up the river
River Cleanups are scheduled at eight different waterside locations within the Hackensack River Watershed from Oradell Reservoir in the north to Bayonne’s 16th Street Park in the south. These active conservation events give people the opportunity to give back to the environment and their communities by doing some “watershed housekeeping.” Hackensack Riverkeeper provides cleanup tools and supplies as well as refreshments for all volunteers.
River cleanups in the area are scheduled for Saturday June 23 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Laurel Hill County Park; Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the 16th Street Park in Bayonne, and Saturday October 20 at 12 p.m. at Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus.
Birding hot spots
More than 270 bird species have been reported in the Meadowlands, which is a major stop along the Atlantic Flyway according to the Meadowlands Commission. Carola noted that of those 200 species, 70 are nesting species while the rest are migratory.
Residents and visitors to the area can participate in popular bird watching through bird walks led by the Riverkeeper. Groups can arrange for a bird walk led by a field naturalist by making a reservation.
Carola said that there are several good places to spot birds in the area such as Mill Creek Marsh, Schmidts Woods, DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, and Livingston Park in Jersey City among others.
For a full schedule and fees, call Captain Hugh Carola at: (201) 968-0808 or visit: www.hackensackriverkeeper.org.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.