While a plan looking to restore 234 acres of land along the west side of Liberty State Park has been in the works for years, officials are hopeful that the project’s planning will be completed next summer and construction will begin by the end of 2021.
Back in January 2018, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) revealed that funding was secured to revitalize a large portion of Liberty State Park that’s closed to the public. The plan called for a cleanup of residual contamination from industry that once dominated the area followed by its conversion into a “mosaic” of freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, forests, and grasslands.
Despite the announcement, no construction has begun on the land almost three years later. In part to clear things up, the DEP held a virtual meeting on October 20 that touted progress on the plan they claim to have made after meeting with several stakeholders including Jersey City’s mayor, county officials, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and representatives from Friends of Liberty State Park and the newly-established Liberty State Park For All.
The first step of the revitalization process for the park’s interior involves excavating about 70 acres of land for a salt marsh restoration project. The remainder of the interior will receive a one-foot clean fill cap on top of the existing soil, which officials claim is identical to what the open portions of the park were given during their construction.
That endeavor will essentially create a new ecosystem within the park, according to DEP officials. Plans for the area include several wildlife viewing sections, over seven miles of new trails, and overlook areas with restored uplands. Several new renderings of what the landscape could look like were included in the DEP’s presentation.
The revitalization of the park’s interior will create three formal entrances and additional restroom facilities. 341 parking spaces will be added by the endeavor and active recreation areas are being considered for three separate sections of the park that are nearest to the city’s Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood.
Officials with the DEP say that several additional “breakout sessions” will be held in the coming weeks and feedback from those meetings will be incorporated into the project’s plans. Officials are aiming to have the design of the interior completed by the summer of 2021 and hope to begin excavation work by the end of next year.
Total construction is expected to last about two years, meaning the interior sections of the park could be completed and open to the public by the end of 2024. New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel called on the DEP earlier this week to move the current remediation plan forward.
“This plan for cleaning up and restoring the center of Liberty State Park is long overdue,” Tittel said in a statement. “We have been at DEP meetings in 1998, 2004, and 2008 that have proposed many of the same things. We hope that this time the resources will be brought to bear to make it happen.”
While there’s still much work to do before the interior restoration breaks ground, those interested can view the DEP’s presentation in the meantime. The DEP has also launched a survey about the plan, with the option of directing comments or questions to [email protected].
Plans to restore the park’s interior come amid a Statehouse debate over the still languishing Liberty State Park Protection Act, which looks to shield the green space from encroaching development. Several schemes to privatize sections of the park have emerged in recent years including the proposed expansion of Liberty National Golf Course, a marina along the park’s southern portion, and even a Formula 1 racetrack.