New Addition to Important Bergen County Watershed
Ten acres of critical Hackensack River Watershed land in River Vale, New Jersey have been permanently conserved by a partnership of three conservation organizations, Bergen County, and the State of New Jersey.
The 10-acre property includes evergreen and hardwood forest that slopes steeply down to wetlands and floodplain where the Cherry Brook confluences with the Hackensack River, just south of the Lake Tappan dam. When the property, slated for development of 11 homes near the Hackensack River, became available for conservation, the landowner worked with The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, several regional conservation groups, and the County of Bergen, to support the acquisition. Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network (Bergen SWAN) and Hackensack Riverkeeper, longtime environmental advocates in the Hackensack Watershed, contributed critical funding to the purchase.
“Bergen County is proud to have helped make this important acquisition possible,” said Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney. “As County Executive, I am a strong supporter of the preservation of open space. The county’s $1.8 million commitment to this conservation purchase will help ensure the protection of the Hackensack River watershed, which is an environmentally sensitive area.”
The property is adjacent to a Conservation District established in the early 1990’s between United Water New Jersey and the Township of River Vale. Neighboring Lake Tappan and the Upper Hackensack Watershed are sources of drinking water for more than 800,000 Bergen and Hudson residents. Bergen County Parks Department will own and manage the land with Bergen SWAN supporting programmatic, environmental, and educational efforts on the land.
Bergen SWAN has been helping to conserve land in the watershed since 1988. Over two decades, their service has resulted in the protection with NJDEP conservation easements of more than 3,300 acres of land in the Upper Hackensack River Watershed.
Bergen SWAN and Hackensack Riverkeeper had for years lobbied for the preservation of this property and an adjoining patchwork of forested lands near Poplar Road in River Vale.The 18-acre Poplar Road Sanctuary was preserved in 2002, and another five-acre parcel on Poplar Road was preserved earlier this year. These 23 acres are owned by the Township of River Vale and were financed with State, County, and municipal open space trust fund contributions.
“We knew when we walked it over 20 years ago that this land, which steeply slopes down to sensitive wetlands near the convergence of two Category 1 waterways, had to be protected,” said Lori Charkey, President, Bergen SWAN. “We look forward to utilizing the property, which connects to hundreds of additional preserved acres in neighboring municipalities, as an outdoor classroom to teach residents about the significance of the forested buffers surrounding our waterways.”
“We are proud to have played a part in conserving an important piece of the Hackensack watershed puzzle,” said Terrence Nolan, TPL senior project manager. “We salute our partners Bergen County, Bergen SWAN, and Hackensack Riverkeeper for coming together to achieve a great conservation result.”
“It has been a long hard road, but we are across the finish line, and it’s been a pleasure to work with TPL, Bergen SWAN, and Bergen County to permanently protect this significant piece of watershed land,” said Captain Bill Sheehan, Hackensack Riverkeeper.
Funding for the $3.4 million purchase price was assembled from several sources. The Bergen County Open Space, Recreation, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust Fund authorized $1.585 million. The balance came from New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection Green Acres Program grants to several non-profit and local groups including $215,000 for Bergen County.
“We congratulate all the partners who worked so hard to bring this project to fruition. The Green Acres Program is pleased to support land preservation in this region and to help expand protected open space in Bergen County,” said Lisa Stern, Northeast N.J. Team Leader for the DEP’s Green Acres Program.
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, TPL has helped protect nearly 3 million acres nationwide, including more than 24,000 acres in New Jersey. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.
Bergen SWAN has worked to protect and preserve the forested lands in the upper Hackensack River Watershed since its formation in 1988, and has continually participated in and championed programs and regulations that give increased protection to watershed buffers. They are currently focusing on ecologically-sound stewardship practices for our watershed lands. Visit bergenswan.org.
Hackensack Riverkeeper was founded in 1997 by Captain Bill Sheehan to represent the natural living resources of the Hackensack River Watershed. Visit hackensackriverkeeper.org.