Beyond the imposing stone walls that separate Reservoir No. 3 from the bustling streets of the Jersey City Heights lies a rugged oasis that too few residents have experienced first-hand.
Those who have yet to venture into the Reservoir, and others who perhaps don’t want to visit during the brutal cold months ahead, may want to visit City Hall instead. Through the end of the month, the city will host the exhibit “Through an Open Gate: JC Reservoir No. 3,” which showcases the work of seven student photographers who spent hours exploring the native environment, indigenous plants, and wildlife of the reservoir.
The exhibit was curated by professional photojournalist Trix Rosen, who led the digital photography workshop from which work for the exhibit was pulled.
“The select group representing the INSIGHT OUT! Digital Photography Workshop discovered a walled-in poetic wilderness located in the center of their urban environment,” said Rosen. “They described the reservoir to me as a beautiful, wild, secluded haven, alive with weathered foliage, wild grasses, withering leaves, muddy marshes, and a lake reflecting the clouds and sky – an awesome and tranquil environment filled with rays of sunlight and the chirping sounds of birds and crickets. These inspiring images reflect the photographers’ creative relationships with an historic natural environment. With a visual eloquence, they speak to the importance of wilderness preservation within the heart of a city.”
‘With a visual eloquence, they speak to the importance of wilderness preservation within the heart of a city.’ – Trix Rosen
Rosen hopes the exhibit will inspire other local youth to become responsible stewards of the environment and she hopes it will empower them to make a difference in their schools, at home, and in their neighborhoods.
“Exhibiting the work of these fledgling photographers at the John W. Meagher Rotunda Gallery will serve as a source of inspiration to other inner city kids and help promote the need for art at the Reservoir,” said Steve Latham, president of the Reservoir Preservation Alliance Board. “[The board] is thrilled by the body of work produced by this talented group of teens.”
The reservoir once provided drinking water to city residents until it was decommissioned around 1990.
Built in the late 1870s, the reservoir – officially known for years as Reservoir No. 3 – was planned as part of an integrated series of water supplies that would provide potable water for city residents. For at least 110 years, the reservoir system did just that until it was shut down and the city started getting its drinking water from the Boonton Reservoir in Morris County.
After its closure, Reservoir No. 3 was abandoned for years and it soon looked like little more than a rock quarry littered with trash and marked with graffiti.
As land in the city increased in value through the 1990s, developers became interested in purchasing the city-owned property for condo construction, and the city considered its own plans to convert the reservoir into municipal recreational ball fields or a public school campus.
A group of concerned citizens and activists, who ultimately became the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance, got together in 2002 to block these plans and began advocating for a different vision for the site.
The alliance would like for the site to be preserved as an “unmanicured” natural environment that maintains the reservoir’s current meadow feel and establishes a sanctuary for the animal and plant life currently living there. However, alliance members would also like to see enhanced recreational features.
In April of 2012 the Reservoir was added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
The exhibit “Through an Open Gate: JC Reservoir No. 3” will be on display to the public in the John W. Meagher Rotunda Galley in City Hall, 280 Grove St., through Saturday, Nov. 30. There is no fee to see the exhibit.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.