2005 Eco-Program Season Boosted By Press Coverage

Once Again, Thousands Of People Join Us On The River And On The Trail

 

By Hugh M. Carola

 

It was obvious that it was going to be a successful year when we began taking reservations for our 2005 programs in 2004. Once May rolled around, our boats began filling up, our cleanups attracted scores of volunteers, and folks from all over were coming to Laurel Hill County Park for a chance to paddle the Hackensack. All indicators pointed to us having a successful, if not record-breaking season. Then on June 19, Tina Kelley’s New York Times article hit and the phone began to ring off the hook. Here is a sampling of the results:

 

Eco-Cruises

Our signature program–which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2005–enabled thousands of people to experience the Hackensack River and explore the marshes of the Meadowlands. Hackensack Riverkeeper conducted 173 Eco-Cruises on those waterways for 2,620 people. In addition, about 225 students and teachers joined us on 18 Eco-Cruises on Newark Bay, the Arthur Kill and the Hackensack River through our Urban Fishing program. As part of our Passaic River Patrol, 75 concerned citizens accompanied us on eight trips along that much-maligned waterway. The final tally was 2,920 people on 198 trips. While those numbers are slightly lower than our average of 3,000 people over 200+ trips, 30 scheduled trips were cancelled due to weather or other reasons. Had they taken place, 450 additional people would have participated. 

Eighty-one trips were conducted for school and Scout groups, including outings for special needs students served by the Bergen County Special Services School District and its counterpart in Hudson County. Once again, we were assisted in our educational outreach by a generous grant from our friends at Wakefern/ Shop-Rite Supermarkets.

As in past years, we conducted a large number of trips for public officials, government agencies and our colleagues in conservation. Among them were trips for Congressman (now Senator) Robert Menendez, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, the Northern Valley Mayor’s Association, the Paramus Environmental Commission, Ducks Unlimited, Trust for Public Land, Liberty Science Center, the 2nd Annual Meadowlands Festival of Birding and the Waterkeeper Alliance.

During the season, we welcomed people from Chicago and even San Francisco as a result of the New York Times article. Without question, the best Eco-Cruise of 2005 was one I conducted for Stacy and Nicholas Forte who chartered a trip in September for themselves, their parents and their wedding party the day after they got married! Wow.

 

Eco-Walks

Over the years, this program has evolved into two distinct activities: guided bird walks and the shoreside components of our school “Combo” programs (which combine eco-cruises with hands-on educational activities on land). In 2005, we led bird walks at the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, the Mill Creek Marsh Trail in Secaucus, DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst and the Mehrhof Pond Nature Trail in Little Ferry (site of our Mitzvah Day work - see page 13). We also conducted charter Eco-Walks at DeKorte and at Oradell Reservoir for several groups. More than 200 people participated with us in these activities.

During our “Combo” programs, 446 students and teachers took part in numerous Eco-Walk activities that included water testing, EnviroScape work and nature walks along the banks of the Hackensack River. Special thanks are in order to our Watershed Ambassadors, Jared Eudell and Advisory Board member (and “Real Science for Real People” columnist) Dr. Beth Ravit for making our “Combo” programs such a success.

 

Guided Paddles

This past year we tried something new in the scheduling of Guided Paddles. We picked five weekends and scheduled four trips for each - two on Saturday and two on Sunday - during each of them. That allowed us to provide both high tide and low tide trips within the same weekend, and to offer paddlers more choice. Unfortunately, wind and rain forced the cancellation or postponement of several trips.

Many novice paddlers took advantage of our Guided Paddles, including many who had never paddled before; we also conducted several trips specifically for birders. New last year were several extended trips but, without a doubt, the most ambitious guided trip was the 47-mile excursion from the headwaters of the Hackensack River at Lake Lucille in New City, NY, to Bayonne’s Sixteenth Street Park on the shore of Newark Bay. Captain Bill and Project Manager Jared Eudell guided the New York-New Jersey Endangered Rivers Canoe and Kayak Squad (NYNJERCKS) the entire way (see Spring 2005 Tidelines, page 3).

2005 also marked the sixth anniversary of Hackensack Riverkeeper’s Paddling Center at Laurel Hill County Park. Between guided trips and our popular rentals, about 860 people paddled with us on the river and through the marshes of the Meadowlands.

 

River Clean-ups

It never ceases to amaze us how many people enjoy getting dirty in the service of the river. In 2005, we conducted 10 cleanups at various locations within the watershed including two dates each at Laurel Hill, Overpeck County Park in River Edge and Kenneth B. George Park in River Edge (co-sponsored by the borough’s Environmental Commission). By the end of the season, 350 dedicated volunteers had helped remove almost 300 cubic yards of trash and debris from the riverbanks and wetlands of the watershed. Among their more interesting finds over the season were two purses (with money inside), a waterlogged Barcalounger, three refrigerators and enough parts to reconstruct about a dozen bicycles!

A welcome addition to the Clean-up arsenal was our Mobile Clean-up Unit - a 10-foot utility trailer purchased with a generous grant from the Bergen County Utilities Authority. In addition to serving as the perfect way to store and transport equipment, the trailer is also a rolling billboard that lets people know where and when cleanups take place.

 

A Final Note

In addition to the 4,700+ people who joined us in the field, many thousands more connected with us at special events like the New York National Boat Show, Hooked on the Hudson and the NJ League of Municipalities Convention. We also conducted more speaking engagements than ever before, including Earth Week 2005 events at schools in Bloomfield, Ramsey, Caldwell and Ridgewood that reached over 500 students.

However it was done, whether on the water, in the exhibit hall or in class, we appreciate everyone who took the time to experience and learn about the Hackensack River. And to those who haven’t done so yet, we hope to see you at the River this year!

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