NJ DEP says Liberty State Park remediation could create trails, courts, rec facilities

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The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) unveiled their initial plan for redeveloping the interior 234 acres of Liberty State Park last week, showcasing a design that could include trails, courts, recreation facilities, and much more.

Photo via the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Deputy NJ DEP Commissioner for Environmental Justice & Equity Olivia Glenn noted that the park first opened in 1976 and was formerly an abandoned rail yard site.

The parks has been restored in stages ever since then.

Due to historical contamination, the interior of LSP has been closed to the public and the redevelopment seeks to restore natural resources, build new trails and recreational facilities. The redevelopment of LSP has been contentious.

Glenn said they have met with state legislators, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop’s office, city officials, the Hudson County government, and local chapters of the NAACP to solicit their input.

She also said there is a need for more places for active recreation in Jersey City.

“Once complete, it will be such an incredible addition to the park,” said LSP Superintendent Rob Rodriguez, who noted that Jersey City has limited outdoor options for recreation.

“I recognized the need for more outdoor recreational outlets that engage youth and families in our community,” Rodriguez said.

LSP consists of 600 acres of land, with 234 of those acres in the undeveloped interior, and 600 acres of water.

The redesign of the interior currently includes seven miles of trails and sidewalks for walking and jogging, along with bike racks and fields. The redevelopment would also build two new parking lots in LSP.

Additionally, 50 acres would be devoted to tidal wetland, non-tidal wetlands would make up 27 acres, and 133 acres would be designated for animal habitations and recreation. Twenty-five acres of land would be devoted to parking and trails.

State Forester John Sacco, also a part of the NJDEP, said a foot of topsoil would cover the contaminated land to make it safe for use. The same process was successfully used in the rest of LSP. They want to contain the contamination while redeveloping the interior of the park.

The DEP’s initial vision for the redevelopment of the interior of LSP also features four new entrances.

“The restoration of the interior will allow us to expand our educational programs to more people,” Rodriguez said.

The DEP is looking at different parts of the park to build recreational facilities such as baseball fields and basketball courts. For example, an area near the corner of Johnston and Jersey Avenues is being studied as a place that could be utilized for that purpose.

Additionally, Environmental Specialist Stacey McEwan said a team of experts designed the plan with help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

McEwan explained that redeveloping the tidal marsh will help fight climate change and storm surge, like the one seen during Superstorm Sandy eight years ago.

The park’s official design will likely be completed next summer, with construction starting next fall.

Glenn said they wanted the planning stage of the redesign to be an open process welcoming feedback. In fact, the NJDEP plans to hold more forums for public comment.

Liberty State Park For All Executive Director Arnold Stovell, who has been adamant about creating more amenities at the park, sounded cautiously optimistic about what he heard at the virtual meeting.

“While I am still looking through the details of the plan, what we saw last night was encouraging at first glance. That said – and as was mentioned many times last night – we have heard these kinds of promises before,” he said.

“There is a history going back 40 years at Liberty State Park of the community being told one thing and the result being completely different. We will not allow that to happen again. Liberty State Park For All will continue to push for a clean-up at the Park that is consistent with standards used in white communities and for active recreation.”

LSP for All is an entity funded Liberty National Golf Course owner Paul Fireman’s charity and Fireman has previously expressed an interest in expanding into Caven Point, though he publicly backed off on this concept in July.