Saturday, October 3, 2009

Somewhere in the Swamps of Jersey

My wife and I went to a Bruce Springsteen concert last night, at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands. The concert was fantastic, with lots of classic songs and Bruce a great showman as always.

But what I want to talk about is the two hawks we saw soaring over the stadium. I thought that was pretty odd. After all, we were in the Meadowlands, the quintessential Jersey garbage dump and surely barren of wildlife (at least wildlife without three heads). Bruce even sang two songs lamenting the "swamps of Jersey". I thought we might stumble across Jimmy Hoffa, but not a red-tailed hawk.

It turns out that the Meadowlands have really been turned around since I was a kid. According to the Meadowlands Development Commission, 5000 tons of trash a day were dumped here in 1969. The swamp was seen as a wasteland, with no other purpose but to be filled in and built upon.

Fortunately the Commission dropped the word "Development" from its name in 2001, and started thinking about conservation. By 2004 they had produced a comprehensive conservation and rehabilitation plan. Nature is definitely starting to recover. You can even canoe in the Meadowlands again, like the guys in the painting above (Duck Hunters on the Hoboken Marshes, 1849, William Tylee Ranney).

For more info, check out the websites of the NJ Meadowlands Commission or Hackensack Riverkeeper.

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