June 3, 2009
Reservoir opens to paddlers Saturday in first-ever challenge
By Denisa R. Superville
Grab your kayaks and canoes and head over to the Oradell Reservoir this Saturday.
For one day only, you can race or paddle on a portion of the reservoir in the first-ever Reservoir Challenge, a fund-raiser for the Hackensack Riverkeeper.
“We are really walking on the moon here,” said Bill Sheehan, executive director of the Hackensack Riverkeeper, which is sponsoring the event with United Water. “We’re treading on new ground. If everything goes (well), and everybody is on good behavior, I don’t see any reason why we can’t replicate it.”
Although United Water allows residents with permits to enter the watershed area for hiking, fishing and bird watching, the water has been off-limits as a protective measure, said Rich Henning, a company spokesman.
“This is a one-time only event right now, in partnership with the Hackensack Riverkeeper,” Henning said Wednesday. “It’s an awareness day, a recreational day and certainly a fun day to be enjoyed by all.”
If you go
The event is 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Oradell Reservoir, Lake Shore Drive in Haworth. The first kayak race is at 9:30 a.m. Participants can register in advance here or on Saturday. There is a $25 entry fee per paddler and a $25 rental fee for those renting kayaks. Participants can bring their own kayaks. The event also is a fundraiser for the Hackensack Riverkeeper.
Even local mayors are getting in on the fun as they gear up for the Mayor’s Cup Challenge, a kayak race of about a half-kilometer scheduled to take place at noon.
Five mayors, including Westwood’s John Birkner Jr., Alpine’s Paul Tomasko and Tenafly’s Peter Rustin have registered, said Nick Vos-Wein, the project manager.
Emerson Mayor Louis Lamatina said he was devising diversionary tactics to distract Birkner, the presumed frontrunner.
“We can ask about the reopening of Pascack Valley Hospital,” Lamatina quipped. “That will direct his attention elsewhere, and that will distract him.”
On a serious note, Lamatina, who said he paddled a kayak fewer than three times, said the day will provide a great opportunity for people to use the reservoir for recreation.
“I would hope that this would alert people (to the reservoir) and bring recognition to the fact that we have this beautiful resource in our own backyard,” he said.
Tenafly Mayor Peter Rustin said he last paddled a kayak about four years ago during a whitewater trip on the African continent.
“The last time was on the Zambezi River, where our main concern was man-eating crocodiles,” he said. “So I figured the Oradell Reservoir should be pretty easy.”
He, too, praised the recreation initiative.
“I think it’s wonderful. It’s an idea whose time is long overdue,” he said. “It’s a beautiful facility. Obviously, because of the nature of the reservoir, we have to be careful what we do with it, but I think it’s very exciting.”
The first kayak race — a 10-kilometer competition — will start at 9:30 a.m. It will be followed by a 5K race. Also planned are guided bird walks. The watershed area is home to bald eagles, common loons, eastern king birds, great blue herons, ospreys, mute swans, red-tail hawks, robins and blue jays, according to United Water.
About 45 people had registered for the reservoir challenge by the Tuesday, Vos-Wein said. Participants can also register Saturday, he said.
Sheehan estimated that about 150 people will race, bird-watch or cheer on family, friends or elected officials.
The kayaking and canoeing events are open to both experienced participants and novices. There is a $25 entry fee per paddler. Kayaks can be rented for $25; participants can also bring their own.
Sheehan said that he had conversations with Henning about allowing kayaking on the reservoir for a number of years. But until March — when a settlement was reached — the company, the Hackensack Riverkeeper and Bergen Save the Watershed Action Network were involved in legal action accusing the company of allowing development on its watersheds, Sheehan said.
“I consider this a giant leap for them to welcome us onto their property and to allow us to hold our event there,” Sheehan said.
The company and the Hackensack Riverkeeper have worked on joint cleanups in the past.