While the Bayonne and Secaucus portions of the Hackensack RiverWalk have been developed substantially, the Jersey City portion that would make up the majority of the 18-mile walk is far from reality.
Anyone who develops along this stretch of the Hackensack River is required to add to the public RiverWalk, a planned linkage of waterfront parks along the Hackensack. This path would function similar to the more well-known Hudson River Walkway, which is also being built piece by piece.
Completion of the trail would provide a continuous pedestrian trail linking retail, office, commercial, and residential districts.
Stephen Marks, director of planning for Hudson County, said the RiverWalk has been under county consideration for years to be developed, and there are plans to complete a study of the RiverWalk with the intention of eventually committing money to filling the gaps in the trail, particularly in Jersey City.
The Hackensack River is approximately 45 miles long, starting in Rockland County, N.Y. and then emptying into Newark Bay in Bayonne. It also flows through and drains the New Jersey Meadowlands.
Secaucus may contain the best examples of the RiverWalk Concept, as a number of parks have been built providing as comprehensive a walkway as possible.
Their portion of the RiverWalk links Hudson County Park and Boat Launch at Laurel Hill, the Secaucus Transfer Stations, Harmon Cove, Snipes Park, Trolley Park, Secaucus High School, Mill Ridge Road Ball field, Schmidts Woods Park, and Mill Creek Point.
Eventually it will expand to provide linkages to include Harmon Meadow Plaza/Mill Creek Mall and New Jersey Meadowlands Commission sponsored Mill Creek wetland trail.
The RiverWalk portion in Jersey City is most evident at the Society Hill Residential Complex off Route 440. There is a walkway that runs the across the complex along Newark Bay.
The proposed Walk would link north of Communipaw Avenue from Lincoln Park in Jersey City to the Jersey City/Secaucus border. And south of Communipaw, the Walk would link Lincoln Park with the NJCU Athletic Complex.
But the operative word is "would," as a number of hurdles have to be met.
From the end of Society Hill to the Jersey City/Secaucus border, there is a large swath of land spanning several miles that runs behind the Honeywell cleanup site, the city's Incinerator Authority/Municipal Authority/Public Works complex, Hudson Mall, the western end of Lincoln Park, the old PJP landfill site, property owned by the state's Department of Transportation, and then property owned by PSE&G under the Pulaski Skyway.
But there could be some development in the future, as plans are afoot to develop the land known as Lincoln Park West and the PJP Landfill for a possible golf course.
Recently, county officials have been working toward applying for state Green Acres funding to acquire the 54-acre PJP Landfill site with the hopes of developing a golf course and multi-purpose field, thus helping along development of a walkway.
However, the land is currently owned by the Archdiocese of Newark who is under contract to sell to the San Francisco AMB Company so they can build a large warehouse on the site.
The RiverWalk section in Bayonne, if fully completed, would run from the southwest corner of the town in an area where the Kill Van Kull meets the Newark Bay, to the northwestern point of the area. That is according to Joseph Ryan, spokesperson for Bayonne Mayor Joseph Doria.
Ryan pointed out last week that another piece of the RiverWalk will be unveiled when the North 40 Park, or Richard A. Rutkowski Park, is scheduled to open this week. The 32-acre waterfront park is designated as a sanctuary for birds and will have nature-walk trails. Also known as the Waterfront Park and Environmental Walkway, it is located immediately north of the Stephen R. Gregg Hudson County Park.
Ryan said that in Bayonne there are several parks along the Newark Bay that make up the RiverWalk. Those parks are Bayonne Muncipal Park on 16th Street, and the Don Ahern Park next to Veterans Stadium behind Bayonne High School. There is also a walkway behind strip mall only blocks away from the 16th Street Park. However, there is a huge gap at the southern end of the city where Chevron/Texaco owns a substantial piece of land.
"The ground level needs to be raised and a number of issues need to be addressed before a walkway can be built on that property," said Ryan.
Ryan said that the RiverWalk concept is a wonderful one for Bayonne.
"We're a city that's surrounded by water," Ryan said. "Walkways provide a great recreational opportunity for people using the walkway to enjoy the water."
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org