Renovations will officially begin on Reservoir 3 now that officials and community members have broken ground on the project that represents the largest park investment since the creation of Berry Lane Park.
The city has committed $6 million to preserve the urban oasis, including the historic pumphouse and fully funding renovations for complete public access to the 14-acre site.
In The Heights section of Jersey City at Summit and Reservoir avenues, Reservoir 3 is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. It was constructed in the 1870s to help provide potable water before the city switched to a larger reservoir in Boonton in the 1990s.
Since then, nature has reclaimed the space, and students use it to study environmental science and wildlife.
Working closely with the Jersey City Parks Coalition, the Reservoir Preservation Alliance and Boy Scouts Troop 466, the city will create safe public access, widen the perimeter trail to meet ADA standards, and incorporate new fencing and lighting.
“After nearly 30 years of discussions with no one taking necessary action, today we are committing the necessary resources to bring us to this critical turning point,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “We will restore this one-of-a-kind local treasure to its fullest potential for residents and visitors to enjoy while properly preserving its rich history and environmental assets.”
Plans to restore the reservoir and surrounding land include the stabilization of the original pumphouses, which ceased operations 30 years ago. Following safety improvements, the city will shift to restoration.
These improvements include expanding the trail from 18 inches to 48 inches wide in keeping with the city’s efforts to create open spaces for all residents including those who use motorized mobility devices and families with strollers.
“I would like to thank Vernon Richardson and all the residents for their input and dedication in seeing the reservoir is preserved,” said Ward C Councilman Richard Boggiano. “We are lucky to have this natural oasis in the heart of Jersey City, and I have no doubt my friend and colleague, the late Councilman Michael Yun, who helped bring us to this point, would agree that this is a proud moment as we are able to finally give the reservoir the upgrades it deserves.”
“Reservoir 3 is the crown jewel of the Jersey City Heights, and this groundbreaking is a first step and a necessary investment toward making Reservoir 3 a safe, accessible park open for all to enjoy,” said Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh. “It is the culmination of efforts from Councilman Boggiano, Mayor Fulop, the late Councilman Michael Yun, the Reservoir Alliance, and the overall community that we are able to achieve and enjoy this historic moment together.”
The city will install the safest yet least disruptive lighting to the surrounding neighborhood and wildlife, according to the city.
“The Jersey City Parks Coalition would like to recognize the collaboration between Mayor Fulop’s Administration and the Reservoir Preservation Alliance for their ability to come together and mutually agree on much-needed safety features and a design which integrates strong community input in preserving the Reservoir’s landscape and environment elements as part of its natural design,” said Paula Mahayosnand, president of the Jersey City Parks Coalition.
“JCPC is pleased to be part of the process and celebrates the work and progress made as part of the City’s initial stage to open the reservoir to residents. This groundbreaking represents a strong starting point for both groups and promotes future opportunities for community engagement as well as JCPC’s mission to ensure this dialogue continues.”
Renovations will preserve portions of the retaining walls where invasive, nonnative vegetation is pushing stones out of the wall into the right of way, causing students and staff of nearby PS 26 and St. Joseph’s School for the Blind to walk on the road.
The city hired Earthbilt, a Jersey City-based company owned by Heights resident Tim Keating in January 2021, to create planting for the project.
“For the past 15 years, the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance has dedicated their time and resources to preserve the ecosystems and historic structures of Reservoir #3 and to establish the site as a public park and wildlife sanctuary,” said Board President of the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance Sarah Burroughs.
“The Alliance strongly supports efforts to create an inclusive and immersive natural space that is accessible to all while providing recreational opportunities for Jersey City residents like hiking, fishing, and kayaking. We look forward to continuing to work with the City to ensure the community has a voice in the current plans to, at long last, open this urban oasis and national landmark on a regular, ongoing basis.”
Boy Scouts Troop 466 Leader Richard Peters said the troop frequently uses the space.
“Scouts BSA Troop 466 sees Jersey City Reservoir 3 as an invaluable neighborhood reservoir of educational and recreational opportunities, which melds perfectly with a primary goal of our troop, combining education and recreation,” he said.
The city has committed $3 million in capital funds to match grant money allocated to the Reservoir 3 construction. $1 million will come from the Jersey City Open Space Trust Fund, over $2 million through the Hudson County Open Space Trust Fund, New Jersey Historic Trust Grant, and Green Acres Grant.