The region covered in this guide holds even more natural areas than those included on the trail routes. Some exist primarily for the enjoyment of local residents, and others are undergoing renovation or restoration to improve future visitors’ experiences. Following are descriptions of some of these special natural resources.
Richard P. Kane Natural Area
In March 2005, the Meadowlands Conservation Trust (MCT) took full title to this 587-acre tract, which consists of non-tidal emergent wetlands and smaller upland areas. The land was slated to become a mega-mall until it was determined to be ecologically important and worthy of preservation. The mission of the MCT is to acquire or hold interest in lands in perpetuity while preserving, protecting, and enhancing environmentally sensitive land in the Meadowlands and within the Hackensack River Watershed. That means the Richard P. Kane Natural Area will be protected and managed for conservation purposes, and for the enjoyment of the area’s residents and visitors.
The area is currently inaccessible to the public due to safety concerns. However, the future holds great promise. Plans are underway to add trails, universally accessible viewing platforms, parking and educational signage. When the vision becomes reality, the Richard P. Kane Natural Area will take its place as the crown jewel of the Meadowlands District.
Waterfront Park and Public Marina
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) has acquired four acres of riverfront property adjacent to the Kane Natural Area to develop a waterfront park and the Hackensack River’s first public marina. The proposed plan calls for the facility to include trails, a promenade and educational areas to encourage people to use the Hackensack River for recreation. As an added service for boaters, the marina will also offer an environmentally friendly pump-out station. The acquisition and renovation of the site is a cooperative effort between the NJMC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
NJMC’s Harrier Meadow was the disposal site for shot rock from the construction of U.S. Route 280 in the early to mid-1960’s. Erie Landfill, just north of the meadow, was a repository of municipal solid waste. The area became overrun with invasive plant species and has been the subject of an intensive mitigation effort to re-establish tidal flow and restore native vegetation. The project has been successful to date, and future plans include adding a walking trail and a passive park.
Greenbrook Sanctuary is a 165-acre nature preserve located within Palisades Interstate Park. As a special-use nature preserve, the Sanctuary is open to members only, and is maintained by the non-profit Palisades Nature Association. The organization, working in cooperation with the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, fosters education and appreciation of nature, and monitors the health of plants and animals in the sanctuary and surrounding Palisades. For an annual membership fee of approximately $35 (individual), members are provided with a key to the Sanctuary. Once inside, they can enjoy well over a dozen trails of varying difficulty through mixed habitats, many offering stunning vistas over the Hudson River. Small groups of non-members can also be accommodated by prior arrangement. For more on the Sanctuary, visit www.njpalisades.org/greenbrook.htm or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
United Water New Jersey’s Recreation and Fishing Program
United Water’s Watershed Recreation Program opens the door to a world of outdoor enjoyment. The program, which runs from April 1 through November 30, allows local residents to enjoy the wooded lands surrounding its reservoirs for fishing or bird watching. For a nominal application fee, local residents can obtain a watershed recreation permit, providing access to four reservoirs — Oradell and Woodcliff Lake in New Jersey and Lake DeForest and Lake Tappan, both in Rockland County, New York. Wheelchair accessible areas are located at Woodcliff Lake and Lake Tappan reservoirs. In addition the public can enjoy United Water’s nature trail. Five miles of trails wind through 90 acres of land adjacent to the Oradell Reservoir featuring many natural points of interest along the way. For an informational recording, please call the Watershed Recreation Hotline at 800-664-4552, extension 3208.
Van Buskirk Island, a Bergen County Park
Located in the Hackensack River in Oradell, New Jersey, Van Buskirk Island Park is part of a remnant riparian habitat corridor that stretches from the Oradell Reservoir to just south of the island. Although relatively small at 15-acres, this fragile oasis is nestled in a highly residential area, making it an invaluable passive-recreation site for the local community. Species seen here include Great Blue Heron, Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Towhee, Warbling Vireo, American Redstart and Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, to name just a handful.
Observe wildlife from both sides of the river east of the Elm Street Bridge. Cross over the bridge and follow the path east to the waterfall for a different view. Walking another 400 feet south, you may find a roost site for Black-crowned Night-Herons. Structures from the defunct Hackensack Waterworks treatment plant, now considered to be historic, block access to the island’s western side. The buildings will be retained to commemorate the development of water filtration and chemical treatment. The park is administered by the Bergen County Department of Parks.