Near where the Turnpike and Route 3 meet in northern Secaucus, there’s a hidden ecological treasure for nature and animal lovers, bookended by speeding cars and mini-strip malls. It’s Mill Creek Marsh, a 209-acre collection of Atlantic White Cedar tree stumps, mudflats, Saltwater Cordgrass, and all kinds of bird species.
On Sep. 3, the Bergen County Audubon Society, which works to promote and protect wildlife, held a nature walk in the marsh with avid bird enthusiasts. The entrance is located near the parking lot of Bob’s Furniture, but serves as a stark contrast.
“It’s surprising to see this much preservation next to a highway,” said Bergen County resident Andrew, 17, who preferred not to give his last name, as he walked along Mill Creek’s walking trail for the first time. He snapped pictures of mallard ducks and white egrets. “You can see a Walmart that way,” he noted.
He captured a belted kingfisher bird on camera – his favorite moment of the day.
Karen Heifetz, from Bergenfield, has visited the marsh several times before. “It’s beautiful, amazing, and it’s right off the Turnpike,” Heifetz said, just before the group stopped to capture tent caterpillars in a tree off the trail. “It’s a wonderland of birds and animals here. Someone earlier mentioned that they’d seen a fox near the trail.”
Debbie Bejar, a Teaneck resident, was on her third trail walk at the marsh. “When you’re around the highway, you don’t realize how beautiful it is,” she said. “But when you come in, it’s unexpected, and I think that makes it even more beautiful.” As rain began pouring down into the marsh, she exclaimed, “I’ve never done a bird walk in the rain!”
In 1996, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority purchased the Mill Creek Marsh, with plans to restore it. In the past, developers wanted to build townhouses there, but the authority stepped in. They began wetlands enhancement and excavation of shallow pools, and created bird and seasonal habitats. They also created the walking trail and a passive park among the marsh’s upland portions.
New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority activities
The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority has a host of activities on their website for the next few months: http://www.njsea.com/.
Its biggest is the Meadowlands Birding Festival, coming up Saturday, Oct 7. at Richard DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst.
The festival celebrates the Meadowlands’ bird population with a day of family-friendly activities including bird walks, kids’ programs and crafts, and talks on the area’s history. The event will also feature a keynote speech from award-winning author Richard Crossley.
The authority also oversees the William D. McDowell Observatory, also located at DeKorte Park. Each Wednesday evening through November, from 8 to 10 p.m., the observatory holds free viewings. All ages are welcome; children must be accompanied by adults. Check http://www.njsea.com/njmc/nature/observatory.html for any time changes.
Several other nature walks are planned.
A walk will take place in Lyndhurst’s DeKorte Park on Sept. 19. On Oct. 1. a walk is scheduled for Losen Slote Creek Park in Little Ferry.
One more walk that month is set for Oct. 17 at Harrier Meadow, located in North Arlington. Each walk begins at 10 a.m.
Visit http://www.njsea.com/njmc/nature/nature-walks.html for additional information.
Don Torino is the president of the Bergen County Audubon Society, which co-hosts some authority events and has a contract with the authority. He said they’re an extension of the National Audubon Society.
“Our jurisdiction goes into Hudson County,” Torino said at the walk. “So, Kearny, Secaucus, Hoboken, are all part of our jurisdiction given to us by National Audubon…We’re somewhere almost every weekend. We skip very few walks.”
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