Riverkeeper, Baykeeper Create Passaic River Patrol

New urban initiative is a "natural" say Sheehan and Willner


By Hugh M. Carola


On June 15 at a major press event in Newark on the banks of the Passaic River, Hackensack Riverkeeper and New York/New Jersey Baykeeper joined forces to bring new environmental advocacy to this much-maligned waterway. The Passaic River Patrol is a joint venture between the two long-time partners, with financial support from the Neu Family Foundation.


The Passaic River is home to several high school crew teams (left), state-of-the-art theatre (right)
and the largest Superfund site in New Jersey (below).            Photos by Jared Eudell


The Patrol also has the backing of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority and Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr. who hosted the press event that featured fact-finding trips aboard Hackensack Riverkeeper vessels Edward Abbey and Robert H. Boyle.


The Passaic River Patrol focuses on the lower reaches of the river which include the fresh water that lies between the Great Falls in Paterson and the Dundee Dam in Garfield/Clifton, and the brackish water that lies south of the dam to Newark Bay. Public education, advocating for public access and holding polluters responsible for the messes they've made in and along the river are the objectives of the keepers' collaboration.


“One question that I hear all the time is, ‘Is there a keeper on the Passaic River?’” said Captain Bill Sheehan, executive director of Hackensack Riverkeeper. “With so many people in Essex, Bergen and Passaic counties living near the lower Passaic, we feel that maybe the time has come to answer that question in the affirmative.”


While neither Captain Bill nor Baykeeper Andrew Willner is looking to establish a new Keeper program on the Passaic at this time, each is already hard at work engaging educators, community groups and elected officials all along the river.


“There's no reason why the Passaic can’t be restored to the status it once enjoyed as a recreational resource for the people of the region,” said Willner. “One of the first things we have to do is to inform those same people that they own the river.”


The goals of the Passaic River Patrol:


• Launch a Passaic River Patrol composed of dedicated citizen advocates with boats, creating a presence on the Lower Passaic.

• Create maps that guide the public to existing boat access points and waterfront parks.

• Organize a Passaic River summit, a river think tank where local groups can voice their views and help plan for the future of their river’s ecology and economy.

• Create an Open Space Preservation and River Restoration report that identifies opportunities for creating Lower Passaic neighborhood greenways, waterfront parks, stormwater management, boat ramps, wetland and wildlife habitat restoration projects.

• Support federal and state officials in taking action against Passaic River polluters, requiring polluters to pay for clean up and Natural Resource Damages.

• Work with communities to prevent inappropriate waterfront redevelopment, to remove bulkheads, fences and other barriers to access.

• Get school groups down to the water via boat trips, a boat building program, river clean ups and other activities.

• Work with local teachers to develop Passaic River and Newark Bay focused curriculum.

• Work with communities to create innovative plans for green development and green jobs on the Lower Passaic waterfront.

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