From getting a close look at barn owls and salamanders to testing live water organisms, families throughout Hudson County can experience the Meadowlands environment at the opening celebration of the River Barge Park in Carlstadt on May 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free event will include kayaking, pontoon boat rides, activities for kids, bird-watching, park tours, environmental exhibitors, and food.
“River Barge Park Day is a wonderful opportunity for the entire family to participate in fun and educational programs that foster environmental preservation while enjoying this spectacular new park,” said Marcia Karrow, executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC).
Just a short ride from Route 3, the five-and-a-half acre River Barge Park is tucked away behind the Meadowlands Sports Complex and provides access to the Hackensack River. The scenic park offers a tranquil setting with riverfront views to enjoy nature and get a close look at an urban ecosystem.
The goal of the celebration is to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protections, conservation, and keeping the waterways clean.
“Go out on the water. Go out on the kayak.” – Brian Aberback.
The park includes a boat ramp, docks, paddling and rowing launch points, a 17-boat slip, marina, a promenade with picnic tables, paths lined by native plants, and an education pavilion.
Testing the waters
Aberback said he expects 300 people to attend the opening celebration. Visitors to the park can get out on the river via an NJMC 30-minute pontoon boat ride or take a mini-kayak lesson from nature sports outfitter REI.
Kids can also participate in water chemistry activities by using science kits to test water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and pH, and observe organisms found in the Hackensack River under the microscope. The Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute will have a computer showing real-time water quality data from several monitoring stations throughout the Meadowlands District.
“What you find out about wetlands is that it is a mixture of fresh water and salt water but uniquely, if you do a test on it, you can tell exactly what the parts per thousand are,” said Gabriel Bennett-Meany, natural resources program specialist.
“It is a day for families. Go out on the water. Go out on the kayak,” said Aberback. “And at the same time learn about the importance of the environment.”
The exhibitors for the day include wildlife educator Joe D’Angeli, who will present a live Barn Owl exhibit. The Bergen County Audubon Society will help visitors find birds and other wildlife through spotting scopes.
A reading and book-signing session for kids will be held at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. by Tom Yezerski, whose children’s book, “Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story,” was named to the New York Times list of 10 Notable Children’s Picture Books for 2011.
The Meadowlands Museum will showcase the region’s rich history, while the Meadowlands YMCA has activities planned for all ages.
Environmental groups will inform visitors about protecting, restoring and improving safe access to waterways. Local green teams will talk about building sustainable communities.
River on the road to recovery
“It is simple as throwing your garbage away because whatever ends up in our storm drains sometimes ends up in our waterways,” said Bennett-Meany about what individuals can do to help keep the waterways clean. She said that the NJMC finds plastic bottles, bags, candy wrappers, and juice boxes among other items washed up along the banks. She also said it would be helpful if individuals stopped using these types of items and made a conscious effort to make less waste.
In the late 1980s, there were 85 striped bass counted in the Hackensack River by the NJMC as part of a fish study. About fifteen years later the number of striped bass had risen to 1,123. During that same time period the number of white perch went from 774 to 11,451.
“There is a recovery and it is ongoing,” said Bennett-Meany. “For most people that know the area and know the history they know it has had a legacy of discharging and factories. A lot of that has changed because of state laws.”
Bennett-Meany said that the NJMC plans to conduct another fish study.
Salvaged land and materials
The NJMC purchased the River Barge park property for $3.1 million in 2005 with major funding provided by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The land was once slated for residential development. The education pavilion features a thatched roof consisting of Phragmites from New Jersey marshes, while the pavilion, tables and bench furnishings were constructed with 300-year-old first-growth long leaf yellow pine salvaged from the Barge Club restaurant that formerly stood on the site. The park also includes energy-efficient lighting and sustainable storm water management, collection and filtering systems.
River Barge Park Day is hosted by the NJMC and the Bergen County Audubon Society and was made possible by funding from the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program and the NEIWPCC.
The rain date is May 20. All parking is at Lot 28 at the Izod Center. Free roundtrip shuttle bus service will be provided for all visitors throughout the day. Due to space limitations, visitors may not bring their own kayaks, canoes or boats to River Barge Park Day.
For more information, visit: www.njmeadowlands.gov or call (201) 460-1700.
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.