Community members have until Nov. 9 to submit comments and survey responses to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regarding plans to rehabilitate parts of Liberty State Park.
The DEP will spend tens of millions of dollars, primarily from monies recovered in lawsuits and settlements for natural resource damages, to rehabilitate some 234 acres of Liberty State Park for public access.
The acreage has been closed to the public by a chain-link fence due to contamination from low levels of metals and hydrocarbons left over from when the site was used to deposit soil in the late 1800s.
The proposed restoration plan, called the Liberty State Park Natural Resource Restoration Project, aims to restore several habitats for a variety of species, including 72 acres of fresh and saltwater wetlands and 133 acres of upland maritime habitats.
To remediate the land, the DEP will excavate and cap contaminated soil with clean soil, which will be planted with trees, grass, and other vegetation.
Currently, the plan includes seven miles of trails with wildlife observation structures, hills and knolls with views of the Jersey City and Manhattan skylines, more than 300 new parking spaces on two new parking lots, and educational, and passive recreational opportunities.
Feedback from the black community
The proposed design is approximately 30 percent complete.
According to the DEP, once the rehabilitation is complete, the project will increase the park’s accessible space by 40 percent. The park will have four new entrances to make it easier for the public to access it.
The project is expected to be fully designed by the summer of 2021 with construction starting that fall.
It should take about two years to complete.
During a virtual community meeting on the design on Oct. 20, members of the public discussed the need for more active recreation space, questioned the cleanup protocols, and stressed the importance of community feedback, especially from Jersey City’s black voices.
Superintendent of LSP Rob Rodriguez suggested several areas where active recreation could be considered, including near Philips Drive in the park’s interior, on the parks south side within Parking Lot 1 on Morris Pesin Drive, and in the northern section of the park near Johnston and Jersey Avenues which would be “easy access” for the local community.
Liberty State Park For Alli s a group funded by Liberty National Golf Course owner Paul Fireman’s charity. Fireman previously sought to expand the golf course into the park. After the meeting, the group called for a “total” cleanup of the land and more recreation opportunities.
“While I am still looking through the details of the plan, what we saw last night was encouraging at first glance,” said the organization’s Executive Director Arnold Stovall in a statement. “That said – and as was mentioned many times last night – we have heard these kinds of promises before. 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 cleanup at the Park that is consistent with standards used in white communities and for active recreation.”
President of the Friends of Liberty State Park Sam Pesin said, “The Friends of Liberty State Park fully support the visionary interior 234 acre natural restoration plan with trails, the protective and legally required remediation plan and the DEP’s active recreation commitment. The interior nature plan will have significant benefits for our state. In this urban area with scarce open space and nature, the plan will inspire urban residents and all visitors and provide special opportunities for urban youth environmental education. The plan will also benefit the economy with eco-tourism. The plan will make LSP even more of an urban quality of life, public resource for our emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health.”
To watch the presentation of the 30-percent design concept visit https://youtu.be/QtMzOASx5bs.
To complete the survey by Nov. 9 go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/B7H3FGJ
For more information on the Liberty State Park Natural Resource Restoration Project go to https://nj.gov/dep/nrr/restoration/liberty-state-park.html