For almost a year, on the third Tuesday of every month, the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) has been conducting free, two-hour nature walks. This month’s walk was in a county park in Secaucus.
The walk was part of the activities the state agency runs all year, planned at their headquarters in Lyndhurst. The NJMC was founded in 1969 to manage development in the Meadowlands region, and conducts many environmental and preservation activities.
They also hold educational events for the public like boat rides and walking tours of the area’s woods and waterways.
“All these gorgeous places and you don’t even see them sometimes.” – Carol Quimby
“Depending on the weather, we’ve had 30 to 35 people on the Tuesday trips,” said Don Torino, the education chair of the Bergen County Audobon Society, which co-sponsored the walk. Even though this activity was during the day, he said, “People who come may be retired, Tuesday might be their day off, or they might just sneak out of work.”
Laurel Hill Park sits on the former site of a county complex that included an insane asylum, hospital, and prison. Wright told the story of approximately 3,000 bodies that were dug up and moved five years ago when a Turnpike ramp was being built. But the attendees weren’t there to ghost hunt; they were on the lookout for birds.
Take a walk
Edith Wallace of Glen Rock said she enjoys the walks. “I like the ones where you don’t have to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday,” said Wallace. “Mostly it’s just fun to be outside with nice people.”
Wallace said she remembers the smell of pig farms emanating from Secaucus as she drove with her family from Jersey City to Hackensack years ago. “Since the end of World War II, they’ve been trying to pave New Jersey,” she said.
The birds must’ve noticed that too. Much of the wildlife returning to the Meadowlands has had to adapt to the new environment around them. Hawks and Northern Shrike have been attracted to landfills because of the mice that run rampant all over them. And the American Kestrel and Marsh Hawk can actually hunt by tracing trails of mouse urine.
Other environmental compromises include building nests in bridges instead of on the edge of cliffs. Recently, an osprey nest was sighted on a large metal tower near the New Jersey Turnpike. The presence of certain species, such as the osprey, indicates the improvement of wildlife diversity in the big picture.
“They seem to have adapted,” said Wright. “The big change was the Clean Water Act and the creation of the Meadowlands Commission. If you have osprey and cormorants, that means you have fish life again.”
Another bird making a celebrated return to the Meadowlands is the common raven. The first attraction for those in attendance last Tuesday was the sighting of two ravens that had made a nest in cliffs of Laurel Hill.
“They have to adapt, ’cause there’s no place,” said Carol Quimby of Nutley. Quimby has been known to feed a falcon who visits her backyard and she enjoys the monthly walks with the group. “It’s fun,” said Quimby. “All these gorgeous places and you don’t even see them sometimes.”
Veronica Bastin of Nutley joined the walk for the first time. “I like it,” said Bastin. “It’s nice. I would come again.” Her friend, Pat O’Shea a tutor from Passaic, comes on every third Tuesday that she can, making it a point not to work on Tuesdays.
Even though most of the tourists on Tuesday were from Bergen County, Jim Wright, the communications officer at NJMC, said, “We do programming that hopefully will attract people from all areas.”
The NJMC oversees zoning in parts of 14 New Jersey towns, 11 of which are in Bergen County. In Hudson County, they oversee parts of Secaucus North Bergen, and Jersey City.
The BCAS shares the goal of luring some Hudson County members to events. Despite having “Bergen County” prominently in their name, their members are from all over northern New Jersey, including Hudson County, and they organize field trips all over the state.
Others out for a walk last Tuesday included father and son team Victor Ruggiero of Little Ferry, John Ruggiero of West Milford, and Don Desjardins, a plumber from Cedar Grove who was looking for birds at the park on his own Tuesday morning when he stumbled upon the group.
For more information on the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, visit www.meadowblog.net or www.njmeadowlands.gov. For more information on the Bergen County Audubon Society, visit www.bergencountyaudubon.org. Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Meadowlands Commission hosts free events for Hud Co residents
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) turned 40 this year, and to celebrate, the NJMC has loads of festive events lined up throughout the year.
“One thing that we wanted to do is just highlight the natural resources here and show people that there’s an amazing natural resource right here in their own back yard,” said NJMC spokesman Jim Wright.
The NJMC was first formed to figure out how the Meadowlands region should be developed. These days, it focuses more on conservation efforts, now that development is in place.
Many of the upcoming events are, Wright said, geared to encourage local residents to “get out there” and enjoy the NJMC’s campus in Lyndhurst, known as DeKorte Park. But there will be events in Hudson County as well.
On Jan. 31 at 1 p.m., musicians Marcus Goldhaber and the Jon Davis Trio will present a special free concert at DeKorte Park in keeping with the NJMC’s growing tradition of bringing live shows to the Meadowlands.
“We want to have a few events that get everyone down to the Meadowlands,” Wright said.
On March 28 at 3 p.m., violinist Jessica Park and pianist Becky Lu will perform with Andrea Lee on cello. Then, in honor of Earth Day, the NJMC will present EarthSongs and EarthScapes, an artistic and musical celebration of the day.
Next month, on Saturday, Feb. 13, the NJMC and the Bergen County Audubon Society will team up to present the outdoor workshop “Lovely Ladybugs.”
Later in the season, on April 10, photographer Kevin Karlson, who happens to also be an expert in shore birds, will lead a nature walk and teach participants the ins and outs of shore bird identification.
The NJMC periodically hosts clean up efforts along rivers and creeks in the region, the first of which will be Saturday, April 24 at Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus.
“We wanted to do something to mark National Trail Day, but wanted to do something that was proactive and did something to restore the quality of the water and land, so we decided to do a cleanup,” Wright said. “Mill Creek Marsh is a great spot and a lot of people don’t know it exists. It’s almost in their backyard in Secaucus. It’s a well-kept secret and it’s absolutely beautiful.”
He added that there will likely be another clean-up at Mill Creek or perhaps the Kearny marsh at the end of the summer season, although no specific date has been set yet.
“We like people getting involved,” Wright said. “We tend to think people appreciate a place when they take ownership of it.”
To inquire about any of these events or to RSVP, call (201) 460-2002.
To learn more about the beauty of the Meadowlands, and DeKorte Park specifically, visit http://meadowblog.net. – Assata Wright