Record Numbers on the River in 2003
Successful Season of Cruises, Canoes, Camps, and Clean-ups Draws 5,000
By pontoon boat, canoe and on foot, a record number of people witnessed the ongoing recovery of the Hackensack River thanks to Hackensack Riverkeeper’s 2003 Eco-Programs. Approximately 5,000 people participated this season (April-October) in Eco-Cruises, Eco-Walks, Canoe Project, Canoe Camps and River Clean-ups.
They saw Diamondback terrapins basking in the sun, Fiddler crabs scouring the banks, flocks of shorebirds feeding among the mudflats, and shoals of herring being chased by schools of Striped bass. They experienced breathtaking summer sunsets, the beauty of a tree literally draped in egrets and the majesty of a solitary Bald eagle in flight.
They also experienced some peculiar and amusing sites and sounds: soon-to-be-soggy boaters who forgot to put in their boat’s drain plug; kids who asked if there are alligators (or crocodiles or piranhas or anacondas or sharks) in the river; and the weird sight of a swimming woodchuck. Captain Bill even made a rescue while on one of his Eco-Cruises, towing in a hapless boater whose motor refused to re-start after a morning of fishing.
Lots of rain, excessive wind, cold and a predicted hurricane affected this season’s outdoor programming. Especially hard-hit was the Canoe Project that saw nine out of 15 guided canoe trips cancelled due to inclement weather. Forty-two Eco-Cruises and Eco-Walks were also cancelled. Nonetheless, Hackensack Riverkeeper was able to serve approximately 5,000 people this season. And to those that missed out, there’s always next year.
For the third year in a row, the Eco-Cruise program hit and exceeded 3,000 passengers. Capt. Bill handled most of the 118 open and adult group Eco-Cruises aboard the Edward Abbey while Capt. Hugh Carola handled the lion’s share of 75 Eco-Cruises for schools and Scout groups with the Robert H. Boyle. Hackensack Riverkeeper actually averaged one Eco-Cruise per day between May 1 and October 31st. All told, a grand total of 3,279 people took Eco-Cruises of which 1,160 were students (ranging from second graders to legal scholars).
This year, Hackensack Riverkeeper again conducted a number of Eco-Cruises for public officials, the media and other special groups. Some highlights include: four trips for Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ 9th), one for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s New Jersey Field Office, four trips for the NJ DEP, including a trip to the Passaic River to support the DEP’s latest antipollution initiative, 10 cruises during the 2003 RiverFest, two trips in cooperation with the NJ Meadowlands Commission, and two for the Bergen County Planning Department and three for our crab outreach initiative. Five of our region’s major newspapers (The New York Times, The Record, The Star-Ledger, The Herald News and the Jersey Journal) as well as the Associated Press sent reporters and/or photographers aboard.
For the first time, Captain Bill conducted a series of 25 Eco-Cruises on Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal. In May, working with community groups and a performance art collective called Red Dive, Hackensack Riverkeeper crossed the harbor and introduced more than 400 Brooklynites to one of their most maligned (but hopeful) waterways.
A total of 741 people took part in Eco-Walks with us. As in the past, most (572) took part in Eco-Walks at Laurel Hill Park in conjunction with Eco-Cruises; however, a record number of people (169) participated in Eco-Walks alone. New this year (and very successful) were walks along the Mill Creek Marsh Trail in Secaucus – a trail that opened just last year – and a walk through New Milford’s Alfis Tract, a wooded preserve on the banks of the Hackensack River. We also led Eco-Walks at Allendale’s Celery Farm Natural Area, Lyndhurst’s DeKorte Park and at Little Ferry’s Mehrhof Pond Nature Trail. “Next season we’ll also be leading walks at the newly preserved Teterboro Woods,” said Program Director (and resident birder) Hugh Carola, “and I can’t wait to see what we’ll find there.”
While bad weather cancelled more than half our scheduled guided canoe trips through the Sawmill Creek Wildlife Management Area, hundreds of people were still able to paddle through the marshes of the Meadowlands this year from early April until late October. We hosted 22 organized group events totaling 440 paddlers and nearly 200 more folks explored the Meadowlands in smaller groups.
The livery, which is located in Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus, was co-staffed this year by part-time canoe wrangler (and Eagle Scout) Thomas Halter. A recent graduate of Hackensack High School, Tom earned his Eagle rank from Hackensack’s Troop 5 and now attends Ramapo College of New Jersey. “Tom did a great job prepping paddlers on safety issues and managing and securing the canoes and equipment,” said Project Manager Jared Eudell.
Hackensack Riverkeeper canoes could be seen at a number of functions around the region: in Hackensack at Hackensack RiverDay, on the Hudson River off Ross Dock at the annual Hooked on the Hudson festival, up to the Oradell Dam with the Friends of the Teaneck Greenway, on Woodcliff Lake as part of an Eagle Scout clean-up project, and on two riverfront cleanups sponsored by the River Edge Environmental Commission. Our canoes also did their duty at six of Hackensack Riverkeeper’s river clean-ups and as the vessel of choice for the second year of our Eco-Canoe Summer Camp.
This was another wonderfully successful year for our river cleanups program. In fact, many of the parks we’ve cleaned for two years had too little garbage for the likes of our energetic volunteers. We held a total of 8 cleanups from April to October and removed litter from over 10,000 feet of stream bank, as well as floating litter from the water. There were at least 10 volunteers at all cleanups; many had more than 30. About 550 volunteer hours were logged.
A few highlights included finding a full chemical drum at Laurel Hill County Park, which required calling in NJDEP hazmat personnel to investigate. Fortunately it was filled with benign diatomaceous earth. We joined the River Edge Environmental Commissions cleanup of the river, which is done biannually and draws countless people and their boats. At Snipes Park in Secaucus, we encountered a very high tide and were actually paddling around in the park, a foot above the grass! The Pascack Brook clean-up was sponsored by West Marine.
We will be adding a couple new parks to the schedule, so look forward to discovering some wonderful new places in the watershed.
A healthy Eco-Program season greatly supports the overall work of Hackensack Riverkeeper. “The donations we receive from participants in our Eco-Programs help us keep the lights on, and the phones working,” said Capt. Bill. “The revenue from these programs is critical, but is a small percentage of what we need to do our work of protecting, preserving and restoring the watershed. Many people who are introduced to our mission through Eco-Programs become donors who support us with contributions throughout the year. We are very grateful for their support.”
Stay tuned for 2004 and… kayaks!
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