November 3, 2006
Guide to where the wild things are
By Eric Hsu
At a tiny park in Ridgefield you can see Ruby-crowned Kinglets flitting by pools that were once tapped for spring water.
You can rent canoes and float past great blue herons in Secaucus.
You might see fat woodchucks or red fox dens in Little Ferry, wild mushrooms in Demarest and rare wood turtles in Westwood.
More people may enjoy such sights with the publication of a free birding and trail guide that focuses on northeastern New Jersey's rich and sometimes little-known nature areas.
The book covers 30 sites throughout the 32-square-mile Meadowlands wetlands, as well as parks and nature centers spread along the Hackensack and Hudson rivers.
The authors say they hope the book will help people discover some of the parks in their own back yards, as well as draw in those who may cling to an image of the area as one polluted by landfills and factories.
How to get it
The birding and wildlife guide is being distributed free by the New Jersey Audubon Society. To order a copy, call 888-NJMBIRD (656-2473) or send an e-mail with your name, address and telephone number to email@example.com, or visit njwildlifetrails.org.
Copies of the guide can also be picked up at Audubon centers in Franklin Lakes, Ringwood and Bernardsville, the Hackensack Riverkeeper office in Hackensack and Meadowlands Commission offices in Lyndhurst.
"The northeast corner of the state gets such short shrift. These places are gems of nature and quiet and solitude and habitat," said Hugh Carola, a conservationist with Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc., which helped write sections of the guide.
"But close to home there are these tremendous places of good woods and wetlands and older parks. You'll find what you wouldn't expect," Carola said.
The spiral-bound book was released in late August and is being distributed by mail and through conservation groups.
It is a collaboration of the New Jersey Audubon Society, the Hackensack Riverkeeper and the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce using a grant from the Meadowlands Commission, which oversees the wetlands that stretch across lower Bergen and eastern Hudson County.
Contributors visited each site, tested driving and public transportation directions, and compiled the carefully written entries by talking to park rangers, nature-center staffers, and amateur birders and volunteers with intimate knowledge of the parks.
The guide includes three sections, including one tailored to family outings in more developed sites, a second focusing on the Meadowlands, and a third for serious birders and independent hikers.
The guide is a companion to a manual published last year covering the Delaware Bay region in southern New Jersey, said Lillian Armstrong, who directed the project for New Jersey Audubon.
Armstrong said that although Audubon has produced similar birding and nature guides in many states, few are as complete and full-featured as the 72-page, northern New Jersey guide.
"To our knowledge this is absolutely unique. It's the only guide of its kind in a dense urban area," she said.
The Meadowlands Commission has printed 65,000 copies in English and 23,000 copies in Spanish.
Each entry gives an overview of the site and the wildlife in the area, and lists parking facilities and amenities, such as picnic tables and restrooms.