Tucked away in an otherwise quiet residential section of The Heights, the Jersey City Reservoir is flourishing with signs of life despite being decommissioned, a relic that provides some of the best fall foliage views right in the middle of the city.
The park, officially called Reservoir No. 3, is next to Pershing Field between Reservoir and Jefferson Avenues. It was built between 1871 and 1874 to provide drinking water to city residents, which it did for almost a century. The site itself spans 14 acres of green space and is surrounded by 20-foot high Egyptian Revival walls.
In the late 1980s, after the city switched over to a new water source out in Morris county, the reservoir was put out of service. Years later around 2005, the Jersey City Reservoir Preservation Alliance was formed as part of an effort to protect the reservoir from disappearing.
Thankfully, the group’s work to save the reservoir was successful. It was placed on both the State and National Register of Historical Places in 2012 and was also listed on the state’s Recreation and Open Space Inventory (or ROSI), which makes the reservoir eligible for Green Acres funding.
A stroll around the grounds right now, where trees and vegetation have proliferated, will make you appreciative of their efforts. While some of the trails are narrow and rocky (wear sneakers!), the reservoir features several Romanesque pump-houses, some interesting abandoned structures and scenic water views with an urban skyline as the backdrop.
The reservoir does have a plan put together for its restoration, although the path forward is cloudy. The Alliance was given a grant from the county back in 2009 that paid for a detailed analysis of how to restore the property’s deteriorating historical structures, as well as a hydrology plan. The group chose John Milner Associates for the work.
“Some of the top architects on the East Coast responded to the Request for Proposals we put out,” says Cynthia Hadjiyannis, the group’s Treasurer, which demonstrates to her how exciting the project is.
The cost estimate for the reservoir’s restoration isn’t cheap – it’s around $12 million. But Jersey City voters may have created an additional avenue for funding the project, as voters approved the creation of a Local Open Space Trust Fund on Tuesday.
In the meantime, residents can check out some great foliage and wildlife at the reservoir, which will be open through November 19th. Catch and release fishing is also available through the city’s Department of Recreation until the end of the season by entering through the reservoir’s Jefferson Street entrance.
The Preservation Alliance also conducts various tours and nature events in the warmer months, provides free kayaking on weekends during the summer, and is always looking for volunteers to help with taking care of the reservoir.