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Urban Nature
April 29, 2011 4:14 AM   Subscribe

I drive past the Meadowlands every day now for the past 2 years on the NJ Turnpike. I kept seeing construction equipment and this area of dead dumping land slowly transform into one with actual streams like out of some plan. Turns out, there was.

But there is still very little detail around the web. For one of the largest and most ambitious marsh restoration events in the middle of an urban environment where the land used to be considered good for nothing but dumping or filling in and building, I'm surprised by how little detail I can find. But imagine kayaking, NJ Turnpike on one side and sycamore trees on the other...
posted by rich (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's one hell of a project they're taking on. I grew up in the area, and let me tell you, in the 1970s, that place was where animals - and Jimmy Hoffa - went to die. Except for the gulls who fed on the mountains - literally, mountains - of trash.
posted by waitingtoderail at 4:25 AM on April 29, 2011


But there is still very little detail around the web.

Yeah, they really want the public to know every detail of HazMat and coroner deployment. Or lack of same.
posted by likeso at 4:33 AM on April 29, 2011


I think it would be easier to start a farm on the moon, than it will be to restore nature in that part of New Jersey. But, I support their efforts - maybe in the future, as you walk along the Hudson River in NYC, you won't have to smell New Jersey from across the river.
posted by Flood at 4:44 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Emaybe in the future, as you walk along the Hudson River in NYC, you won't have to smell New Jersey from across the river.

I've spent some time in this part of the Garden State. NYC dumps their garbage and builds their power plants in New Jersey and blames them for the smell coming from "across the river".

There is definitely a smell coming from the other side of the river, but I think it's wearing a Mets cap.
posted by three blind mice at 4:51 AM on April 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


The smell from across the Hudson is maple syrupy and comes from the fenugreek processing factory, dude. I find this syrupist commentary reprehensible, as should all loyal waffleites.
posted by elizardbits at 5:31 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Blossey is studying whether European insects that feed on the reeds could be used to attack phragmites in the United States without harming native plants. In the meantime, the wetlands restoration will rely on spraying and digging."

Here we go again. That shit almost never works, and usually causes a ton of other damage. See: Asian ladybugs.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:49 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe they could use kudzu to overpower the reeds? Oh, wait....

Seriously, good for them for trying. It will never be pristine, but they should be able to transform it into a place that has much better aesthetic values; is good for native vegetation, birds and wildlife; and is suitable for activities like canoeing and hiking. And usually a more functional landscape in those terms is also better for flood and storm surge mitigation, compared to building dikes and levees.

With restoration projects like this, it is important to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Americans spent a good 400 years destroying that patch of ground, and it will take time and a lot of effort to improve it. It can be surprising how on even the most blasted, concreted, and absolutely hammered piece of ground you will find little niches of native ecological activity -- there is a lot of resilience in the system, and with support from this kind of restoration work, huge benefits are possible.

It's interesting that it is being funded basically by developers, using mitigation credits. I'm glad that they are being creative and finding the funding, but one can only hope that the overall balance is positive, since those developers are going to be ripping up and paving over other habitats in exchange. In both dollars and acres, I hope that they are leveraging something much better than a one-to-one mitigation, and I also hope that they are not allowing developers to exchange impacts to much more functional habitats in order to restore the Meadowlands.
posted by Forktine at 6:04 AM on April 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've spent some time in this part of the Garden State. NYC dumps their garbage and builds their power plants in New Jersey and blames them for the smell coming from "across the river".

This.
posted by pianoboy at 6:15 AM on April 29, 2011


I'll add that I worked on a project a while back that was funded with mitigation dollars. It was a cool project and definitely did some good, but no one involved was really all that convinced that it actually mitigated for the original impact. It's a little like allowing me to cut off some of your fingers as long as I reimburse you at the OSHA-approved rate for finger-loss and buy you some prosthetics. Sure, I've mitigated for the the impact, but most people would prefer to keep their fingers and find a different way to get some money.

But again, that's the path of thinking that starts letting the perfect ruin the good. The development is going to happen regardless of my feelings, so finding a way to tax it (directly, or using mitigation credits, or whatever) creates at least a partial good out of the situation. Like the requirements many large projects have to put a small percentage into public art, the outcome can be totally bogus or really amazing; from the short description in the article, this project sounds like it is pretty good.
posted by Forktine at 6:17 AM on April 29, 2011


Hey Rich, did you know you can go on canoe tours of the Meadowlands? I've been meaning to do that. I also vaguely remember this book about the Meadowlands being good.

And sort of related, I'm glad NJ is doing something good, but I also wish they would restore the oyster bed project that was trying to clean up other local pollution...
posted by armacy at 6:37 AM on April 29, 2011


Take the phragmites. Leave the cannoli.
posted by gubo at 6:43 AM on April 29, 2011


OK, I love the animated .gif on the top of that otherwise very professional looking Meadowlands webpage.
posted by maryr at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Army Corps of Engineers is active in restoring wetlands in the Meadowlands area -- similar to what Forktine talks about they are doing restoration for mitigation credits for dredging New York Harbor.

I think it's one of those things where every little bit helps. But, Xanandu or whatever they're calling it now seems like a great money pit.
posted by backwords at 9:02 AM on April 29, 2011


I spent a lot of time out in the Meadowlands last year as part of an MFA graduate seminar group project. A lot of what seems random in that area (scrub, weeds, etc.) has been planned as part of an attempt at mitigating damage to the flora and fauna of the area, including the patches of what looks like unkempt overgrowth near the on and off ramps of the nearby highway.

If anyone is interested, there's some more info and links on some of the old seminar project pages located here.
posted by stagewhisper at 9:44 AM on April 29, 2011


There is definitely a smell coming from the other side of the river, but I think it's wearing a Mets cap.

What do you have against Jews and/or Hispanics?
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:52 AM on April 29, 2011


Could someone who knows a bit about the species involved comment? Phragmites is the genus of reeds, but there are certainly native Phragmites species. This article lumps them as though they were all invaders.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 AM on April 29, 2011


Here is a PDF about phragmites and how some of them are considered invasive species.
posted by backwords at 10:20 AM on April 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you, backwords.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:52 AM on April 29, 2011


Sigh. Makes you long for the days of Purple Loosestrife.
posted by maryr at 5:28 PM on April 29, 2011


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