Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Championing Open Land

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Championing Open Land

Article excerpt

RIDGEWOOD -- New Jersey lawmakers and Governor Christie should back a dedicated funding source to preserve open land, now that the popular Green Acres fund has run dry, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean said Sunday at an event in honor of Earth Day.

With the last of a $400 million bond issue allocated and three bills pending to fund the purchase of private land, the state must act to preserve huge tracts statewide, even though the economy is still in recovery and the jobless rate is 9 percent, Kean said at the event sponsored by the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.

"I'd like to see the governor support a permanent funding source to maintain funding for open space," Kean said.

The former two-term Republican governor, whose environmental record was highlighted by an aggressive push to preserve wetlands, also faulted more conservative members of his party and Christie for not doing more to combat climate change.

"I'm a supporter of the governor, but I'd like him to do more," Kean said, addressing a few dozen people at the event, held at the Ridgewood Library.

With Earth Day approaching on April 22, Meadowlands officials also unveiled a book that details the dramatic turnaround of the region -- known 50 years ago for its toxic landfills that absorbed 1 million pounds of trash a day, the sewage-soaked Hackensack River and pig farms.

"The river was so polluted barnacles couldn't live there," said Jim Wright, a communications officer for the commission who wrote "The Nature of the Meadowlands."

In fact, in one notorious episode in 1973, fog and smoke from a fire in the landfill shrouded the western spur of the New Jersey Turnpike, causing a series of crashes that involved 66 vehicles and killed nine people, Wright said, showing old news accounts of the episode in a slide show.

Today, the area is home to more than 50 species of fish, more than 400 types of plants and 280 species of birds, including many on the endangered list.

For the first time in half a century, peregrine falcons are nesting on the bridges over the Hackensack River. The presentation also included impressive nature shots not often associated with New Jersey: bald eagles taking flight, rough-legged hawks hunting prey over the region and egrets gathering by the dozens at dawn in DeKorte Park. …

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