Although Newark was founded largely because of its location along the Passaic, one of New Jersey’s longest rivers, for much of the last century and early 21st century, there were few opportunities for Newarkers to enjoy the city’s scenic waterside location. Lined with the Route 21 freeway, industrial plants, and overgrown shrubbery, and filled with pollutants, “the whole toxic environment was encapsulated in the desecration of the Passaic River,” according to The New York Times. Many residents only saw the river while crossing a bridge into Hudson County.
Today, although access to the water is still limited in much of the city, there are efforts by community, municipal, and county leaders to reconnect Newark with the river. The largest example of this can be seen in the development of the 12-acre Riverfront Park, which opened in the East Ward’s Ironbound section in 2012 with soccer and baseball fields, playgrounds, walking trails, a boardwalk, and sports courts. Now, the park is in the process of being expanded upriver to the Bridge Street Bridge, and will feature a wellness trail, bike pathways, a boathouse, a floating dock, an amphitheater, a stage, and a new playground when completed.
To celebrate Newark’s connection with the Passaic River, the annual Walk to the Water and River Day events will return to the city this month on Saturday, June 17th. Since 2012, this tradition, which is hosted by Newark Riverfront Revival in partnership with the City, Essex County, the Ironbound Community Corporation, the Hackensack Riverkeeper, and the Trust for Public Land, has brought residents together to rediscover the waterfront, which was hidden in plain sight for so many decades.
This year’s event will begin at 11:00am outside of City Hall, located at 920 Broad Street, with a parade led by the Malcolm X Shabazz High School Marching Band. People passionate about the river or those interested in its future will follow behind, walking together to Riverfront Park to participate in the River Day activities from 1:00pm to 5:00pm. The event will be hosted by The Newark Times’ publisher Tehsuan Glover and DJ Scotty Nevers, and there will be performances, fitness activities, magic, a terrarium-building event, printing from the Newark Print Shop, facepainting, and more, according to the event flyer.
In case of rain, the River Day festivities will be held on Saturday, June 24th.