Despite the blustery springtime winds, dozens of people gathered at Liberty State Park recently to participate in the 18th Annual Salt Marsh Clean Up.
The effort was hosted by Friends of Liberty State Park, a group dedicated to the park’s beautification and improvement, as well its protection from privatization plans.
“Free, open, and green is what we always strove for,” said organization president Sam Pesin. “It also marks the official 25th birthday of Friends of Liberty State Park.”
Since 1988, Friends of Liberty State Park have defended the area from developers seeking to build golf courses, amusement parks, and other commercial endeavors.
Longtime member Charles Hannon accounted for the group’s earliest efforts.
“We started maybe with a handful of people,” said Hannon. “Now, we have over 800 members.”
Within the upcoming weeks, the group plans to further celebrate their silver anniversary with a benefit walk and an awards luncheon.
“Today’s volunteer salt marsh cleanup, by wonderful volunteers, is a great way to celebrate this milestone,” Pesin added.
The cleanup also attracted the participation of newer generations of conservationists, namely five year-old Melanie Slattery.
The enthusiastic volunteer first started her involvement with The Friends of Liberty State Park when her mother, Ana Slattery, joined as part of the Hudson County Community College Honor Society.
“I’ve done this with my daughter for three years now,” said Ana. “We’ve done the gardening, river clean up, everything.”
Ana and her daughter walked along the shorelines of the Hudson River, equipped with a wheelbarrow, picking up various litter and debris left by the tides.
“It was much worse after Hurricane Sandy,” she said. And despite the community’s increased efforts, Liberty State Park is still feeling the effects of last year’s hurricane. With some pathways and buildings like the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal closed, the park is still not fully operational.
“I think the park will rebound,” said John Tichenor, a Friends of Liberty State Park co-founder, making note of the community’s efforts as well as the increased amount of seasonal employees helping to rehabilitate the park.
“The essence of Liberty State Park is that people fought for a free park,” Tichenor said.