Monday, December 21, 2009

New Jersey Meadowlands

I'm not talking about the football stadium. This summer I decided to explore the natural estuary of the Hackensack River that is part of the New Jersey Meadowlands: the wetlands just outside of New York City, criss crossed with highways, factories and parking lots. A tidal area filled with all sorts of wildlife in addition to the pollution and garbage. I've spent a lot of time in New Jersey over the years and every time I would take the train into town I would pass through a beautiful dichotomy of nature vs man. Serene marshes and meadows bumping up against rotting industry.

It was a great short trip, very rewarding. The NJ Meadowlands Commission is doing a lot to raise money and awareness to clean up the water and preserve thousands of acres of land for the wetlands native wildlife.

First of all, anyone visiting the area must first be aware that you will get lost. I have a very good sense of direction and I haven't driven through New Jersey once without getting lost. Roads criss-cross every which way with confusing signs and little logic to layout. With all my preparation and map reading I thought my companions and I would be fine, but unfortunately the main road leading there was closed. Much confusion ensued.

Our first stop was something I've been meaning to visit for many years. The WMCA relay station. You pass the relay station while driving south on the NJ Turnpike. It is an old, run-down art deco building, done up in white tile with curved edges and a large, red neon sign. I've always fantasized running a pirate radio station from here. On the way over we passed a giant, squished rat. No one works in the building anymore. It's just used for equipment storage and trasmitter boosters.

Finding the entrance to the park area was tricky too. You have to pass through the strip-mall soaked town of Kearny and take a small access road called, seriously, Disposal Road. Then you have to veer around a recycling center and go down a road that says "no trespassing" until you get to the main gate of Richard DeKorte Park. This is a 110 acre reserve with over 200 species of birds. It's quite amazing, because you are walking through this beautiful marshland, but with the horizon dotted with electric lines, airplanes flying over head and Manhattan looming in the background. I loved it.

It must've been low tide because much of the area between the reeds was cracked mud, revealing the footprints of the area's natural inhabitants. Birds, frogs, etc. You walk along these earthen dikes, surrounded by water. Great photo opportunities. One thing I didn't find that I was looking for was an old house off of one of the area's service roads. Like WMCA, you pass it when traveling along the turnpike. It's an old, 3-story house from the early part of the 20th century that stands all alone in an area with no trees and no neighbors. Just an old, barely used service road. I want to find this house.

1 comment:

Jim Wright said...

Great post. I work for the commission, and we are trying hard to help the environment rebound and to get the message out that the Meadowlands is a great place near New York to go hiking or kayaking or bird-watching. The commission's nature blog, which I maintain, is -- lots of great pix of birds and nature. The blog has (hopefully) helpful directions to our many parks and natural areas.

Keep up the grest work (nice pix. too).