NJ DEP officials provide update on Liberty State Park interior restoration progress

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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) provide their first update since February on their plan to restore of Liberty State Park (LSP).

Screenshot via Zoom.

 

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

“We have reached a critical juncture,” NJ DEP Deputy Commissioner Olivia Glenn said during on Zoom last night. She explained that 30 percent of the plan has been developed, laying out the basics of what will be constructed.

There are 1,200 acres in the park, with half of that being the waterways. Of the remaining 600, 234 acres are going to be redeveloped. The restoration will create 133 acres of recreation, with 61 acres for active recreation, Glenn explained.

Additionally, there will then be 50 acres of tidal wetlands and 27 acres of non-tidal wetlands.

Glenn said public comment factored into their final design to accomplish ecological restoration and the creation of active recreation, including sports fields and basketball courts and passive recreation of walking, running, and biking.

In addition to the main park, the NJDEP will also create a four-and-a-half acre park for active and passive recreation on Audrey Zapp Drive across from LSP. State Forester John Sacco said construction is likely to begin in two years.

A work group will be created to implement the project consisting of local officials, their staff, stakeholder group representatives, and representatives from the community. The specific members of the working group will be announced at a later date, Glenn said.

“I’m humbled and appreciative the department is taking the extra step to seek out what folks are thinking,” said attorney Elnardo Webster, also suggesting that restoration should be integrated into the Sci-Tech City project as much as possible.

Glenn said the DEP commissioner is “committed to ensuring everything planned for this corner of JC is advanced in a really concreted fashion.”

“The Friends of LSP thank you. The DEP is the first one to change the long-time policy against active park recreation,” added Friends of Liberty State Park President Sam Pesin.

Pesin also said the restoration would make the park a great site of “ecotourism” destination.

Glenn also said that there are still no plans to allow privatization of the park, which came up after Pesin expressed concerns over the expansion of the Liberty National golf course.

“This is exactly how we should be using energy dollars,” chimed in Director of Environment New Jersey Doug O’Malley said regarding Natural Resource Damages paying for the clean up of land contaminated with hexavalent chromium.

He also said that the elected leaders in Trenton need to take the efforts to keep LSP an open green space a step further.

“We think it’s critical the governor and the legislature … permanently protect all of Liberty State Park,” continuing that state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-33) support the Liberty State Park Protection Act.

While Liberty State Park 4 All President Arnold Stovell had previously been at odds with Pesin, he also expressed satisfaction with what the plan looks like to date.

“We are very, very pleased that the focus has been on the things to appease the needs of the whole community,” he said.

Another speaker during the public portion, Rob Kushner asked what would happen if there were a tidal surge like in Hurricane Sandy.

Furthermore, NJDEP official David Bean said they are creating a new tidal creek to redirect water and prevent that from happening.

“We are definitely planning on having robust engineering in the tidal creeks,” he explained.

Later, Assistant DEP Commissioner Ray Bukowski said they would following all proper state vendor guidelines in the bidding process.

The next meeting update will be held near the end of summer at a date to be determined.

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