The Secaucus High School Wetlands Enhancement Site, as the area is officially called, has become inhabitable for many types of animals. The NJMC plans to create a thriving ecosystem once more.
Chris Gale, public relations for the NJMC, said that the area has been victimized by pollution and the spread of phragmites, or common reeds.
Weed the reeds
Gale said that common reed benefits the ecosystem in some ways, but in general, it is a poor food source and does not foster the growth of other flora and fauna. He said that there are ways of ensuring that, once the reeds are removed, they do not return as aggressively.
"We're essentially lowering the land," he said. "Phragmites doesn't like to get its feet wet, so it won't grow in areas that are covered in water during high tide."
A plant that does grow under these conditions and is much better for the life forms that inhabit it is a plant known as spartina alternaflora, which the NJMC is hoping to grow.
Looking across the baseball field bleachers at the high school, a sea of what appears to be red and silver ribbons can be seen stretching across acres. "Those mark where we've seeded," said Gale. He said the poles actually hold together net that prevents geese from eating the seed.
Causes a smell
One of the downsides to the work is that an odor has begun to seep out of the area where work is being done.
"The way marshes or wetlands work, the waste on the wetlands has a tendency to build up over time," said Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan.
The marsh itself had had a very slow, perhaps non-existent, flow of fresh water running through it. This led to a lack of oxygen in the area that in turn led to a lack of decomposition of waste. This allowed for waste and sediment to build up for a long period of time.
Now that the area is being cleaned and river flow is returning to normal, all of the waste that had been building up needs to decompose properly.
"Whenever something decomposes, there are natural gasses that go along with it," said Sheehan.
These natural gasses are causing the area to smell of decay, but no residents have complained as of yet.
"You learn to like it," joked Gale.
kway from wetlands to High School
The restoration will eventually connect most of the wetlands by a walkway that will lead from the current site, through Mill Creek Point and ultimately to Secaucus High School.
Sheehan said, "It's always been one of our stated goals to involve students in the progress."
Once completed, the walkway will offer students and teachers direct access to the wetlands. There is a small path that exists near the school now, but the proposed walkway will be much more expansive.
Gale said the walkway will allow students to pass over the marsh. This way, they will not disturb the biodiversity by traipsing through it, and they will be able to look down and see the wetlands from a close vantage point.
"With the right faculty and supervision, students will be able to really learn a lot about wetland systems and how they work," said Sheehan.